USAF’s X-51A unmanned hypersonic air vehicle flew further on its own power in its first flight on Wednesday than any other scramjet-powered vehicle in history, eclipsing NASA’s X-43 Hyper-X. Charlie Brink, USAF’s X-51A program manager, said his government and industry team was “ecstatic” with this maiden mission. According to USAF and industry officials, the X-51A successfully flew on its own power for more than three and a half minutes over the Pacific, accelerating to speeds of Mach 5 and an altitude of about 70,000 feet. But after “about 200 seconds” of engine burn, a vehicle anomaly occurred and the flight was terminated, said Brink. Nonetheless, the test was a huge confidence booster. “We built four test vehicles to get a successful flight, and we hit many of our goals right out of the gate,” he said. (Tuesday’s test was scrubbed after a ship sailed into the splash zone.) (For details of Wednesday’s launch, see Edwards release, Edwards report by Diane Betzler, and Boeing release) (See also video of launch posted at YouTube.)
The U.S. supports “a stronger and more capable” European defense, Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin III said during an Oct. 22 press conference in Brussels—but that defense should not duplicate the functions and capabilities of the NATO alliance.