Air Force Chief Scientist: No Date Set for Hypersonic Vehicle Tests

Air Force Chief Scientist: No Date Set for Hypersonic Vehicle Tests image
May 25, 2016 | Source: National Defense, nationaldefensemagazine.org, 2016, Vivienne Machi

The U.S. Air Force has no immediate plans to conduct hypersonic vehicle flight tests, the service's chief scientist said May 17.

Greg Zacharias said he "was not aware" of any set dates for a U.S. hypersonic flight test. 

Russia and China both conducted hypersonic missile flight tests in April, according to the Washington Free Beacon.There were at least five Chinese flights between 2014 and 2015, according to a 2016 Mitchell Institute report, Hypersonic Weapons and U.S. National Security.

"Obviously, the testing that's going on is a concern for everyone in the community. ... And we're trying to address it," he said at a Mitchell Institute talk in Arlington, Virginia. 

Hypersonics is defined as speeds over Mach 5. Retired Lt. Gen. David Deptula, president of the Mitchell Institute, called it, "a game-changing technology." Zacharias said it would serve as a means of rapid global mobility, and said it was an area of priority in the future Air Force Core mission.

The United States last performed a hypersonic test mission more than three years ago May 1, 2013, with the Boeing X-51A Waverider. The report estimates that it will be four to five years before the next air-breathing hypersonic vehicle, the Hypersonic Air Breathing Weapon Concept, takes flight.

Zacharias cited priorities and budget constraints as a reason why there are no immediate test flights. "And infrastructure: We need more hypersonic wind tunnels, for instance," he said, adding that the Air Force is currently working with NASA to improve test facilities.

The Mitchell Institute report said that hypersonic technologies and weapons are "both vitally important and inevitable – for those who prioritize their development."


Mitchell Institute, Hypersonic Weapons and U.S. National Security: A 21st Century Breakthrough

Communities: