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U.S. Hypersonic Jet Waverider Lost over Pacific

RIA Novosti

02:57 16/08/2012

MOSCOW, August 16 (RIA Novosti) - The U.S. military’s X-51A Waverider hypersonic jet has failed its Mach 6 test, the BBC quoted the U.S. Air Force as saying.

The aircraft, designed to travel at six times the speed of sound, which would make a flight from New York to London last one hour compared to the current standards passenger aircraft time of seven hours, broke apart over the Pacific.

The wingless 8-meter prototype was dropped from the wing of a 50-meter subsonic B-52 bomber that ascended to a height of 15,000 meters (50,000 feet) from the U.S. Edwards Air Force Base, in California.

A U.S. Air Force spokesman blamed the failure on a faulty control fin, which, he said, had prevented it from starting its unique airbreathing scramjet engine, according to the Universe Today space news website.

According to the Russian BBC, NASA and the Pentagon intend to use the test mainly to aid in developing high-speed military missiles. The development of supersonic passenger jets is a secondary aim. The organizations have already spent $140 million on the Waverider project.

According to the Pentagon, hypersonic speed, defined as Mach 5 or greater, is crucial for the future of U.S. stealth technology, because the high velocity makes tracking more difficult. Hypersonic flight also would allow for high-speed missile strikes and deployment of troops.

A June 2011 Waverider test reached only Mach 5 as the engine did not gain full power.

Earlier this year Deputy Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin described American hypersonic research as a threat to national security.

"This breakthrough decision by the U.S. opens up for it the prospect of a transition from a demonstrator prototype to creation of a multirole hypersonic missile by 2015-2018," Rogozin said in May during a visit to the Raduga "Bereznyak" state-owned missile design bureau at Dubna in the Moscow Region.

Rogozin, who has responsibility in the Russian government for the military-industrial complex, called on Russia's aerospace industry to match American hypersonic flight developments.

Earlier this year India announced a joint project with Russia's NPO Mashinostroyeniye missile producer to build a hypersonic successor to its BrahMos supersonic cruise missile.

Raduga and NPO Mashinostroyeniye both carried out research work in hypersonic weapons during the Soviet era but did not produce a working weapon.

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