The Air Force is utilizing the world’s only quiet hypersonic wind tunnel at Purdue University to support the X-51A WaveRider Scramjet Engine Demonstrator program. The tunnel, developed by Boeing and the Air Force Office of Scientific Research, is unique in allowing engineers to assess the performance of air vehicles traveling at speeds reaching 4,000 mph or about Mach 6. With it, they can study airflow over the nose of X-51A to optimize its design. “Researchers are now able to characterize, or describe, the onset of the laminar to turbulent transition on hypersonic aircraft such as the X-51A with clarity that would be impossible using a conventional wind tunnel,” said John Schmisseur, AFOSR program manager. The X-51A completed its critical design review last June and fired the engine for the first time. (USAF report by Molly Lachance)
U.S. Air Force F-35s and F-22s regularly deploy deep into the Pacific region from Alaska, Utah, and Hawaii. In the future, though, the head of U.S. Indo-Pacific Command would like to see the Air Force permanently station fifth-generation aircraft west of the international date line—closer to China.