The United States has tested a plane that can fly from London to New York in one hour, but its real advantage is hitting a long-range target with a super-fast missile.
The “X-51A WaveRider” unmanned aircraft made a five-minute test flight before a planned crash into the Pacific Ocean.
The hypersonic speed of the plane, which is ejected from the wing of a B-52 bomber, could give the United States a critical advantage in a future missile war in which it could launch a missile to hit a target 3,000 miles away in one hour. The current intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) take hours to reach their targets.
Hypersonic engines also would allow planes to quickly escape enemy fire.
A super-fast missile would have eliminated bin Laden in 1998, when he was able to escape before cruise missiles fired by the U.S. Navy fired hit his terrorist training camps 80 minutes after laucnhing, The Los Angeles Times noted.
The Wave Rider’s first test was conducted in 2010 and lasted for slightly more than two minutes. As in Tuesday’s test, the first flight also was designed to end in the ocean. Officially, it is called a “non-retrievable” aircraft.
After it is dropped from the B-52 bomber, a solid-rocket booster accelerates its speed before a “scramjet” propels it to speeds five times faster than the speed of sound.
The video below shows a simulation of the 2010 test flight.