Boeing X-51A exceeds Mach 5 in Air Force test

LOS ANGELES — An experimental, unmanned aircraft developed for the U.S. Air Force went hypersonic during a test off the Southern California coast, traveling at more than 3,000 mph, the Air Force said Friday.

The X-51A WaveRider flew for more than three minutes under power from its exotic scramjet engine and hit a speed of Mach 5.1, or more than five times the speed of sound.

The test on Wednesday marked the fourth and final flight of an X-51A by the Air Force, which has spent $300 million studying scramjet technology that it hopes can be used to deliver strikes around the globe within minutes.

The previous three flights ended in failure or didn’t reach the intended speed.

Though the WaveRider was designed to reach Mach 6, or six times the speed of sound, program officials were satisfied with its performance in the latest test.

“It was a full mission success,” program manager Charlie Brink of the Air Force Research Laboratory at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base said in a statement.

The sleek, missile-shaped WaveRider was released from a B-52 bomber 50,000 feet above the Pacific and was initially accelerated by a rocket before the scramjet kicked in.

It reached Mach 4.8 in less than half a minute powered by a solid rocket booster. After separating from the booster, the scramjet engine was ignited, accelerating the aircraft to Mach 5.1 at 60,000 feet.

The flight ended with a planned plunge into the ocean.

The WaveRider traveled more than 230 miles in six minutes, making it the longest hypersonic flight of its kind. Engineers gathered data before it splashed down.

Darryl Davis, president of Boeing Phantom Works, which built the WaveRider, called the test “a historic achievement that has been years in the making.”

“This test proves the technology has matured to the point that it opens the door to practical applications,” Davis said in a statement.

While the Air Force did not have immediate plans for a successor to the X-51A, it said it will continue hypersonic flight research.

More in Local News

Departing mayor’s locally drawn portrait joins city’s pantheon

Artist Elizabeth Person’s portrait of Everett Mayor Ray Stephanson will hang with others at City Hall.

Inslee proposes tapping reserves, carbon tax in budget plan

The proposal also includes money for the mental health system and efforts to fight opioid addiction.

One dead in crash south of Granite Falls

Two cars collided near the intersection of N. Lake Roesiger Road and Hidden Valley Road.

2 women struck, injured while crossing busy roads

The first happened Wednesday night in Everett. The second was Thursday morning in Edmonds.

Lynnwood robbery leads to lockdown at Edmonds schools

Edmonds police said it was just a precaution as they search around Edmonds-Woodway High School.

Marysville 7-Eleven hit by armed robbers

Officers set up a perimeter and brought in a police dog, but the man couldn’t be found.

Snohomish man, 63, missing from home since Monday

He left without his keys, wallet and phone, saying something about going to “the river.”

Counties fed up with unfunded mandates may sue the state

For example, no money has been provided to install, maintain and clear out required ballot boxes.

4 teens accused of murder plead not guilty

Prosecutors allege they worked together to plan and executea robbery that was supposed to get drugs.

Most Read