USAF’s Hypersonics Road Map Sets Long-Term View

By Guy Norris , Graham Warwick
Source: Aviation Week & Space Technology

November 26, 2012
Graham Warwick Washington and Guy Norris Los Angeles

Fifty years after the U.S. Air Force first began to recognize the true challenges of air-breathing hypersonic flight for weapons and aircraft, a cohesive plan is emerging that finally may enable those long-held goals to be achieved.

Unlike many earlier road maps, however, the new plan is measured in decadal, rather than annual, targets and appears to accommodate both the technological difficulties of the tasks and the realities of defense science and technology (S&T) spending in a time of austerity.

Despite the painfully slow progress from the days of the ramjet-powered Martin Marietta Advanced Strategic Air Launched Missile (Asalm) of the late 1970s to the most recent flights of the Boeing X-51A scramjet demonstrator, the plan recognizes that speed remains an Air Force priority for its warfighting capabilities.

The Air Force defense S&T vision now calls for efforts to support development of a hypersonic strike weapon by 2020, and a penetrating, regional intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) aircraft—probably piloted—by 2030. The service intends to achieve for strike weapons a technology readiness level (TRL) of 6, the jumping off point for full-scale development, by the start of fiscal year 2018. The target for a hypersonic aircraft is the far lower TRL 4 maturity level by 2020.

Read more: USAF’s Hypersonics Road Map Sets Long-Term View — Aviation Week & Space Technology.

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