Faster is better, and within the next decade the U.S. Air Force wants a hypersonic jet in rotation that can reach speeds of Mach 5.1. Whoa.
The Air Force already tested the X-51 WaveRider hypersonic plane back in 2013, but it was more of a tech demo than a functioning airplane that could be used in the field. But, now that they’ve figured out some of the tech, they want to potentially create a fleet (or at least a few flagship planes) to get in on the action by 2023.
Air Force Chief Scientist Mica Endsley confirmed to Military.com that they’re hard at work on the next generation of its hypersonic vehicle. The goal is to create a new craft using some of the X-51 tech that is capable of operating "at the kind of temperatures you have when you are going at hypersonic speeds." To make it work, they’re also working on a guidance system that can still function at Mach 5.
As The Verge notes, this goal is no guarantee that the Air Force can actually reach it successfully. The X-51 was the culmination of several failed attempts to build a hypersonic jet, and a recent test of a hypersonic missile didn’t even make it through takeoff. So, yeah, good thing they have a decade to figure this thing out.