SCIENTISTS from the US defence forces are working to build a new aircraft that can travel at speeds of more than 6100km/h (Mach 5) while carrying deadly missiles.
The aircraft — which are being worked on by the US Air Force and the Defense Advanced Projects Research Agency (DARPA) — are designed to move at hypersonic speeds, that is, faster than five times the speed of sound.
The new aircraft follows the X-51 Waverider, which successfully travelled at hypersonic speeds in May 2013.
US Air Force chief scientist Mica Endsley told military.com that they plan to have a next-level hypersonic aircraft ready for use by 2023.
The US isn’t the only country looking to invest in and develop hypersonic technology either. According to reports on the conservative news website Washington Free Beacon, China is allegedly testing hypersonic cruise missiles that will eventually be able to reach speeds of up to Mach 10 (12,250km/h). That’s fast enough to break through US defence shields.
Dr Endsley told military.com that China was “showing a lot of capability in this area”.
“The advantage of hypersonic is not just that something goes very fast but that it can go great distances at those speeds,” he said.
Such a weapon would take only half an hour to get from Los Angeles to New York.
DARPA is already working on other hypersonic weapons systems, like the High Speed Strike Weapon, which they claim will be able to respond to “time critical, heavily defended targets and achieve high survivability through altitude, speed and stealth”.