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Record-Breaking X-51A Wave Rider Cruises at Five Times the Speed of Sound

Written by on Tuesday, August 14th, 2012

Suppose that you were a top-notch military scientist and you wanted to build a missile that could foil all enemy defenses to represent the ultimate in nuclear weapon technology. How would you do it?

You could focus on stealth and develop a missile that could somehow foil enemy radar and sneak past missile defense systems unharmed. You could also spend all of your time focusing on a highly-advanced stealth bomber, like the B-2, that can quietly glide above enemy territory and drop a nuclear bomb before your opponents know what hit them.

Sometimes, the simplest solution is the best one. What if you build a bomb that flew so incredibly fast that modern anti-missile defense systems would have no hope of hitting it? That’s the idea behind the X-51A Wave Rider, a 26-foot-long experimental missile that will leave most other missiles to eat its vapor trail. This bad boy is the only missile ever made capable of hitting hypersonic speeds (Mach 5 or higher), which will allow it to hit a target anywhere on Earth in a matter of minutes.

Well, that’s all depends on whether or not the US military can get it working. They’ve already performed two tests of X-51A Wave Riders, and neither one went according to plan. The first test flew for 200 seconds, a full 100 seconds short of its intended goal. The second test ended early when the missile went through a series of unexpected shockwaves, busted a seal, and then stopped combustion. They’re giving it another shot today, so let’s hope that the third time’s a charm.

If it works, the military can upgrade cialis pharmacy this high-priced experiment into a fully-operational hypersonic nuclear missile. Falling under the philosophy that a good offense is the best defense, a missile like this could represent the ultimate in deterring nuclear attacks from enemy nations. The generally accepted belief is that any nuclear strike against a country would result in a full-blown nuclear retaliation and mutually-assured destruction. The missile ups the ante by promising that any nation foolish enough to launch a missile against the US will be hit in a matter of minutes.

The only catch with the X-51A Wave Rider is that it currently has limited range. You can’t burn enough fuel to hit Mach 5 speeds and expect to have enough juice to circumnavigate the globe. To put it into perspective, if the first X-51A Wave Rider flight test pulled off speeds of Mach 5 and burned for 300 seconds, then it would travel a little bit more than 317 miles in just five minutes. That’s barely far enough to cross the width of most US states, let alone the ocean. In order to be a viable offensive weapon, the X-51A Wave Rider would need to either have a massively improved flight time or be stationed somewhere near the target. Fortunately, it shouldn’t be too hard to pull off either one of those fixes.

If they can do that, though, they’ll have a weapon that will literally be inescapable, because anything slower than a literal rocket ship would be too slow outrun this hypersonic missile.

If you want advice about the world of military aviation, there’s no better people to turn to than men and women who have sat in the cockpit and flown some of the world’s most advanced aircraft. With over 50 current and ex-warfighters on call, Strike Fighter Consulting Inc. can give you access to up-to-date, first-hand technical and tactical expertise.

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