DARPA officials think the Falcon Hypersonic Test Vehicle-2 impacted the Pacific Ocean along its intended flight path, but they can’t be sure because an unknown anomaly caused them to lose the signal more than nine minutes into the flight. The Minotaur IV rocket, launched from Vandenberg AFB, Calif., last week, “successfully inserted the aircraft” into the “desired trajectory,” according to DARPA. A rocket camera confirmed it separated successfully and reached Mach 20. That’s when officials lost the signal. “We know how to boost the aircraft to near space; we know how to insert the aircraft into atmospheric hypersonic flight,” said Air Force Maj. Chris Schulz, DARPA HTV-2 program manager. “We do not yet know how to achieve the desired control during the aerodynamic phase of flight. It’s vexing, [but] I’m confident there is a solution. We have to find it.” Officials were able to glean more than nine minutes of data, which will be analyzed by an independent Engineering Review Board and used to “inform policy, acquisition, and operational decisions” regarding conventional global strike programs. The Air Force wants a global strike platform capable of reaching anywhere in the world in 60 minutes or less.
The Air Force overall reduced its size by 120 aircraft in fiscal year 2021, but kept about the same number of fighter, bomber and attack aircraft, according to data supplied by the service. The F-35 fleet saw the biggest increase while the B-1B bomber fleet saw the largest decline.