back to article Hypersonic Waverider scramjet in epic wipeout

The US Air Force’s ongoing attempt to develop a hypersonic scramjet has taken another hit, with its X-51A tester breaking up less than a minute into its 15 August test flight. According to the Air Force, the test flight, planned to last five minutes, ended 31 seconds after it started. A rocket booster had been fired to …


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  1. Pete 2 Silver badge

    Sunk cost

    > With only one test craft remaining, ... whether or not to risk burning more expensive hardware

    They've already built the craft, so there is no financial risk (except for the cost of the test flight). The question is whether they understand what went wrong on the previous 3, so that the information they've "bought" with those failures can be used to move closer to a successful trial.

    1. Alan Dougherty

      Re: Sunk cost

      And, any telemetry that has been returned will allow, us plebs, to transverse the big oceans in a matter of three hours or less... Imagine that!


      Not, in any way, would this expedient any sort of weapon system, that could be disguised, from being detected by orbital systems, looking for thermal blooms... that would just be crazy talk...

      1. Term

        Re: Sunk cost

        "....will allow, us plebs, to transverse the big oceans in a matter of three hours or less... Imagine that!"

        Welcome to 1983!

        1st Jan 1983 - British Airways Concorde sets a new New York to London record of 2 hours 56 minutes.

        29 years ago!

        1. Kharkov

          Re: Sunk cost

          29 years ago for Concorde?

          Perhaps in another 29 years, we'll be able to do what we did... 29 years ago.

          1. Captain DaFt

            Re: Sunk cost

            "Perhaps in another 29 years, we'll be able to do what we did... 29 years ago."

            I'm still waiting to see if we can do, and nearly did, over 40 years ago! Pfft, we should've had stations on Mars by now, not one little satellite barely holding orbit over Earth!

            /rant But NOOOOO! We decided to keep all our eggs close in one basket, never mind that it's sitting in the middle of the cosmic equivalent of fastball practice at Camp Walleye.

            One errant rock, or an unexpected belch from ol" Sol, and Oops, there goes all the (semi)intelligent life that we know about in the universe... But eh, we saved enough money to bomb Butfuckistan for 3 more hours, so it was worth it! rant/

            1. I. Aproveofitspendingonspecificprojects

              Just not Krikkit

              Your reference to camp walleye has nothing to do with sailors or Brylcream boys does it?

              1. Captain DaFt

                Re: Just not Krikkit

                "Your reference to camp walleye has nothing to do with sailors or Brylcream boys does it?"

                Honestly, I'm not sure where the reference is from. Some late night, old B&W comedy movie about baseball I saw as a teen?

            2. Nigel 11

              Re: Sunk cost

              The semi-intelligent life would survive an unexpected belch from old Sol, unless it was on a scale that hasn't happened since life was walking on dry land. Our civilisation might not ... but we'd probably find a way back within the next hundred thousand years or so.

              Probably ditto with respect to extinction-level meteor impacts. The dinosaurs died out because they were big and dumb and didn't shelter in holes or cache food. (The mammals did. The birds or flying dinosaurs substituted long-range mobility for hiding in a hole).

              We can't do anything about Sol. Since we might do something about meteors, maybe we should. On the other hand, we've scanned the skies and made sure that there aren't any extinction-level impacts coming from objects orbiting the inner solar system during the next few decades, and we would notice them coming with enough time to react. Probably.

            3. Rampant Spaniel

              @captain daft

              What are you on about man? We will be able to tell our grandkids with pride that after being inspired by our fathers and grandfathers generations walking on the moon and building concorde (then laughing at concordski) our generation gave the world big brother, idle american and going to asda in your pj's.

              The ISS is a decent achievement, if for no other reason then so many nations managed to vaguely work together long enough to get it up there.

              I have a question (vaguely related to the topic!), wondering if you smart folks know the answer? When they canned the shuttles they stated cost of replacing them with newer designs as a huge barrier. Could they not just make new shuttles using the old design or a moderate revamp? A huge portion of the cost must have been r&d right? I doubt one or two more shuttles would have been cheap, but neither is renting russian launches for years.

              1. John Smith 19 Gold badge

                Re: @captain daft

                "When they canned the shuttles they stated cost of replacing them with newer designs as a huge barrier. Could they not just make new shuttles using the old design or a moderate revamp? A huge portion of the cost must have been r&d right? I doubt one or two more shuttles would have been cheap, but neither is renting russian launches for years."

                That would be a reasonable idea *provided* the production tooling still existed and all the suppliers were still in business. That would have been the case in the 80s and probably the 90s. It's essentially what happened to Enterprise (which was the structural test article for the series. Complete structure but no systems, which was then fitted out). However since the prgramme ended all tooling for the ET and SRBs has gone as well. There is a *lot* of infrastructure needed to build an orbiter.

                That said re-creating it all with new suppliers might work out cheaper (in inflation adjusted dollars) but that leaves the retrospective study on Shuttle reliability. This analysed the *calculated* reliability versus the actual reliability based on what is known about the whole flight history. It's not impressive. By end of life they were at a predicted loss rate of 1 in 192 flights. A modern design could *grossly* simplify maintenance and make it much safer to work on but it's the *design* itself that has failure modes you cannot eliminate.

                It's not an engineering problem. It's a political (NASA funding is *highly* political) and economic problem.

          2. drone2903

            Re: Sunk cost

            On September 1, 1974, Major James Sullivan and his backseater, Major Noel F. Widdifield, set a speed record in SR-71A serial no. 64-17972, flying from New York to London in 1 hour 54 minutes and 56 seconds, for an average speed of 1,806.96 mph.


            Strange how difficult it is now just to do as good as we did so long ago.

            What have we lost ?

            (we = humanity)

        2. Alan Dougherty

          Re: Sunk cost

          It's alright.. they won't let the French on board this time..

          Too many Rafale, sold to dusty, desert, dictatorships, that don't dare to demand dinar as payment :)

          I can't remember where I was going with this.. but the D's seemed to be good..

        3. Tom 7

          Re: Sunk cost

          but the reason Concorde failed was it wasn’t american. Had it been american the sonic boom would have been celebrated.

          It would still be flying now if BA wasn’t such an appalling company.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Sunk cost

            BA fitted the uprated deflectors after FOD damage to a wing taking off from New York, Air France didn't, deciding the cost of fitment wasn't justified by the risk to the craft.

            The rest, as they say is history. BA saw an opportunity to retire an expensive, aging fleet without loss of face. Whilst it was a shame they did, I can't argue with the economics, and BA are there to make money not run a flying museum.

            1. Daz555

              Re: Sunk cost

              BA did take the chance to retire an expensive, aging fleet. Fine. They did however refuse to sell them to those who wanted to keep them air worthy - Branson for example. That we do not have a single flying example out of the remaining airframes is a disgrace.

              1. bigben

                Re: Sunk cost

                Odd that Branson did not make a big noise about purchasing the redundant Air France aircraft. Almost as if he had no intention of buying BA's planes but just wanted to score some points from a 'rival' airline.

              2. JimboSmith Silver badge

                Re: Sunk cost

                Certificate of Airworthiness.

                Airbus were not prepared to continue support, making the replacement parts, technical support etc. and therefore surrendered (after consultation with BA/AF) the type certificate for Concorde (i.e; handed it back to the regulators) meaning that the entire fleet was grounded. Branson could have bought them but he

                a) Only said to the press that he was prepared to offer £1 for them, same as BA paid.

                b) Couldn't fly them anywhere without a Certificate of Airworthiness.

                So what was he going to do with them, open up a museum? Because strangely that's where they all ended up, just without the bearded one having any involvement.

              3. Nigel 11

                Re: Sunk cost

                Concorde would have been out of service sooner or later because of the airframes wearing out (metal fatigue) and no production line for replacement Concordes. Don't blame BA alone. All the world's airlines decided Concorde's fate by not buying into the supersonic aviation concept. Maybe supersonic passenger transport might someday be economically viable, but Concorde's worst flaw was that it could not bridge the Pacific ocean.

                I've always wondered, was Concorde really just a state-sponsored civilian air transport project ? Or was the real purpose to develop technology for supersonic bombers, that was rendered pointless by accurately targeted ICBMs?

                1. Peter Stone

                  Re: Sunk cost

                  I seem to recall seeing an RAF year book, just after Concorde had started flying, showing a drawing of a Concorde with RAF roundels carrying three nuclear bombs, with a caption pointing out that it could be our next bomber

              4. rwbthatisme

                Re: Sunk cost

                Not entirely true, the Concorde at Manchester Aeropark airport is still airworthy (as it was flown in & parked) with a bit of effort (oil & fresh spark plugs etc) could be returned to flight

        4. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward


          The time to cross the ocean with passengers is not only impacted by top speed, but by:

          1) Time to climb to altitude (you really don't want to be doing Mach 1+ down low!)

          2) Acceleration time to speed (I don't think your passengers would like a 10G pull to speed).

          3) Deceleration time from speed.

          4) Time to descend from altitude

          5) General airport issues (time to get take-off clearance, time to get landing clearance, time to taxi to the gate, time to get gate clearance).

          Going from Mach 2.2 to Mach 6 will reduce the time you spend over the ocean, but not the other times (indeed: time to altitude will increase as will acceleration time).

          Now, if you are going to the antipode (e.g. London to Christchurch) you will greatly benefit from the higher speed, but on a shorter hop (London to New York, say), the other terms will dominate.

          1. Alan Dougherty

            Re: Times

            @D.D. Hagood.. the only real world use for this tech, IS the engine itself, tipped by what ever type of explosive takes your fancy...

            I'm pretty sure DARPA don't give two shits about G ratings for passengers on the way down on one of these, if they get them running..

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Sunk cost

      Not at all.

      The US are paying, not us.

    3. Sordid Details

      Re: Sunk cost

      "...whether or not to risk burning more expensive hardware."

      Might as well. If you're not going to fly it then what''s the point of having it?

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Sunk cost

      Wrong analysis. The correct way to look at this is that a launch has costs above the cost of the hardware (crew, fuel, logistics, etc.) Also, if by analyzing the data they have, they can determine what went wrong and what to do about it, they may be able to correct the flaw on the remaining prototype before launch, which is likely much cheaper than building a whole new prototype.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    This is a research project. Expensive --- but still research.

    1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

      Re: Research

      And it's not proper research unless stuff blows up.

      Although brains in jars and beakers of bubbling liquid are an acceptable alternative...

      1. FartingHippo

        Re: Research

        Also flying monkeys.

  3. Turtle


    "With only one test craft remaining, the Air Force Research Laboratory is promising a “rigorous evaluation” of what caused the latest failure, and whether or not to risk burning more expensive money."

    Hey! Just like the Russian Proton-M rocket carriers with the Briz-M boosters!


    1. Aaron Em

      Re: Nice!

      Well, Paperclip snapped up von Braun and his team before the Sovs could get to them, and communism tends one might say to discourage the kind of enlightened authoritarianism so crucial to successful large-scale engineering projects, so Russia's never really had much luck in the way of rocketry -- they got it right once, with the R-7, and everything of import they've produced since then has been just a refinement of that same basic design. (Everything else they've tried blew up on the pad.)

      What I find worrisome is that we in the US, undisputed world leaders in the field since 1945 thanks to our sagacity and dispatch in identifying and importing the necessary talent, seem to be losing the engineering abilities we developed at such effort and cost -- we've regressed so far that the Russians, with the great-grandson of a booster first flown in 1957, have outdone our manned space program, not through superior technical excellence but largely through sheer perseverance. (This, of course, being a trait Russians have always had in near-inexhaustible abundance.)

      Progressivism sure is a wonder, ain't it? We can no longer build things that don't fall apart or blow up when we try to use them, and we can no longer even attempt things that our grandfathers made look easy back when our fathers were little boys. We can't build the new infrastructure we need, or even maintain the infrastructure we already have, and in the formerly great cities of the American East Coast, one can just barely make out the faintest glimmer of the grandeur which was once commonplace.

      But don't we all just feel so good about ourselves! -- and whether or not we deserve to doesn't just not matter any more, but we're not even allowed to ask the question without being marked out as evil. How dare anyone suggest that none deserve respect, whether their own or anyone else's, save those who've worked to earn it! No, we have self-esteem now, which is every person's right, be he the meanest no-account bum begging change on a street corner, or an engineer who's helped to design and build machines like the one on which you're reading this right now -- and then, being far better than is acknowledged by those who look everywhere save within for the source of their well-deserved sense of inadequacy, given that knowledge away free to the world, for the betterment of all mankind.

      And, of course, so that Quaker hypocrites, of the sort which disparage their betters with cute little phrases like "dead white European males," can join together across nations and use machines which they barely even can operate, much less ever hope to begin to understand, to call that engineer and those like him sexist, racist, elitist, misogynist, and whatever else their false and vicious hearts desire. These, of course, are the same who argue so vehemently that schools must exist, must by doctrine of in loco parentis own in mind and body every last child on the planet; not to impart knowledge and the ability to employ it in the service of one's fellows -- because, after all, inequality of intelligence and of capability is inequality nonetheless, and on that ground must be driven out of existence "by any means necessary" -- but rather to ensure that no one, however deservedly, should even for an instant feel as though he has to live up to anything at all. Because, after all, we all share the same Inner Light, and we're each just as good and worthy as any other -- unless, of course, we fail to share the Quaker strain of belief, in which case we can receive no damnation sufficiently vile to encompass our boundless villainy.

      And, lately, these creatures get their way, at least in the United States; in fact they have so thoroughly infiltrated and suborned every agency of power, and so effectively established their religious convictions and given them the force of law, that they now are largely reduced to caviling because their hegemony is less than complete! -- yet, being as all of us endowed with souls, and thus ever one with the true and eternal God, they know within themselves that what they are doing, to give it its simplest and most accurate definition, is not merely wrong, but evil. Having fallen prey, though, to the eternal deceiver, and thrown all their volition behind old Split-Foot in their benighted search for the impossible dream of the Kingdom of God on Earth, those people not only lack insight but fear it, because to acknowledge themselves, to truly recognize the inescapable falseness of what they've become or been brought up to be, would force them to despise themselves -- which they fear above all things, because they know it is precisely as much as they deserve.

      Thus also the wellspring of their loathing for traditional Godliness, as opposed to their Quakerized excuse for faith which venerates humanity above all creation -- while, as I say, they are not and can never be truly separate from God this side of the grave, they wish they were, and anything which reminds them of the evil they refuse to see in the mirror -- anything which makes it more difficult for them to throttle that tiny voice, to crush it down to the bottom of their selves and ignore it as loudly as possible -- they must of course deride and despise and kill with all their might.

      I'd weep for my species, except that at least China and India seem to have kept the alien infection from their shores, and even Russia, thanks to Putin, seems to be casting off their eighty-year progressive delusion with commendable vim and vigor. Of course, one can only expect so much in a scanty couple of decades, especially from a people who were so thoroughly pastoral at the start of the last century that virtually their entire technical vocabulary had to be lifted wholesale from English -- that said, the Russians seem to be doing about as well as anyone has a right to expect, and I doubt not at all that, fifty years from now, they'll have joined their fellows on the Asian supercontinent in entirely surpassing those of us in the West, who will by then have fallen wholly under the same spell that Russia so recently shook off and that India and China have thus far entirely defied.

      Let it not be said that my counsel is that of despair -- even Tennyson recanted "Locksley Hall" before he died, and anyone with a decent sense of history understands that imperium will always emanate from somewhere. As an American, of course I regret that my nation isn't and won't soon again be the source of same, but as a son of the Confederate States I recognize that Yankee hegemony, which is to say the rule of the Dissenters and their Quaker sons and daughters, inevitably sows the seeds of its own destruction.

      Perhaps our grandchildren's grandchildren will return our once-great nations to prominence among the honorable and respectable polities of the world. Perhaps it will be many more generations than that before our descendants remember themselves. We are still on the downward slope of the curve, and it's quite certain no one living today will survive to see the far side of the trough. But hope survives in the knowledge that it is every bit as certain, just as it ever has been, that some day the "shining city on a hill" will be seen by all, and known to all, for the shimmering and deadly mirage that it is, and that ruthlessly to carve human meat and human sinew and human bone, in hopes of bringing such a fantasy to reality, will once again some day be known to all for the unspeakable evil it is.

      The Dissenters learned this lesson once, as they were whipped from Albion's shores. By the eternal grace of God, against whom the deceiver may struggle as he please but may never hope to prevail, they will learn it again. Though it take a thousand years -- we will be free.

      1. I. Aproveofitspendingonspecificprojects

        TL, DV

        Was you talking about Titans no?

        Who's we?

      2. Tom 7

        Re: Nice!

        DR TL but I believe the US are really happy to launch things on top of russian rocket motors from the 80's cos they cant make them themselves.

        Good engineering requires small groups of brilliant and dedicated people. BA's and NASA have gone a long way to ensure that doesn’t happen anymore. Nothing an accountant hates more than someone with better maths than them.

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        @ Aaron Em

        Nice rant - reminds me of Brigadier General Jack D. Ripper (though considerably more verbose).

        Damn those ladymen for weakening US resolve to plant Old Glory on Mars!

        1. John Smith 19 Gold badge

          Re: @ Aaron Em

          I thought it was putting fluoride in drinking water.

      4. Hollerith 1

        Re: Nice! - @Aaron Em

        We in the rest of the world enjoy watching the USA plummet from its short-lived imperium top-spot, as it's hard to admire a country that kills without risk and meddles for money for its own rich, not moral values. As for the Confederacy: ah, that States'-Rights dedication to protecting and expanding slavery was perhaps not the finest thing the USA ever did in the world. But now the Chinese are quietly buying up resources and political favours all over the world and I no longer pay much attention to the implosion that is the USA. Bye-bye, and thanks for Disney World.

        1. Aaron Em

          Re: Nice! - @Aaron Em

          Hollerith: The small always delight in seeing the great brought low, but nonetheless those grapes you're eating seem awfully sour to me. No doubt you'll find imperium, as exercised by China, India, and Russia, far more congenial.

          FatsBrannigan: Satire or no, General Ripper at least had the right idea about communism. There's nothing dishonorable in being a slave, but to be a slave of masters who refuse to acknowledge either your status or their own, is a horrible fate indeed.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Nice! - @Aaron Em

            Right idea about communism? Debatable, but you must agree that General Ripper was as daft as a mahogany frying pan. What was your point again?

          2. Kharkov
            Thumb Up

            Re: Nice! - @Aaron Em

            I wouldn't say that we've lost the capability exactly but the companies that get the headlines and so come to mind in discussions like this spend most of their time sucking on the government teat and are, IMHO, horribly inefficient.

            Case in Point: The US Air Force has budgeted 1.7 Billion dollars in FY2012 for 4 satellite launches (with ULA). That works out at 435 million dollars per launch. SpaceX (not closely associated with the US Government - yes, I know they're taking contracts from NASA) will do a launch for 60 million dollars - 7 TIMES LESS.

            Make a business plan showing that people can make a profit going NY-London Heathrow in less than 2 hours (again) and the Private Sector (that part of it not addicted to Government handouts - it's not socialism (evil) if it's a corporation taking money) will come up with a design and construction blueprints.

      5. John Smith 19 Gold badge

        Re: Nice!

        Haven't taken our meds today, have we?

        1. Aaron Em

          Re: Nice!

          Of course I cannot simply be secure in my knowledge of history and my identification of progressivism for what it is, and able therefore to demonstrate the courage of my convictions -- no, as with anyone who fails to accept the Quaker strain of faith in every jot and tittle, I must simply be out of my mind, and thus merit no better than to be drugged into silence. How progressive of you.

          I doubt you're aware of the relevant history, but for any who might be interested, I shall mention that the Soviet Union's psychiatric establishment used the diagnosis of "sluggish schizophrenia" for precisely this same purpose. Dressed up as it is these days with pretty fMRI pictures and talk about malformed brain areas, it still stinks just the same.

          1. John Smith 19 Gold badge

            Re: Nice!

            " I must simply be out of my mind, "

            Not at all. The progressive view would be that you have a "different consciousnesses" implying it is neither better nor worse than more ordinary world views.

            And writing an 11 paragraph grossly OT blurb of text would certainly support the idea that your world view certainly "different."

            I'll look forward to the usual 2 down votes. Someone seems to agree with everything you write, but they just never seem to post. Funny that.

            Have a very progressive weekend.

            1. Aaron Em

              Re: Nice!

              John Smith: I do like the implication that I give enough of a damn about up- and downvotes to be sock-puppeting. As I've mentioned elsewhere, I am a royalist. As such, popularity contests are well beneath me, much less squandering irreplaceable time in a futile and embarrassing effort to influence same in my favor.

              (I also rather like that you choose to style yourself after a man who I suspect would've found your philosophy abhorrent, but that's neither here nor there, I suppose.)

              I know quite well, from the inside, the progressive view you describe. (Those who doubt my confession of former Quakerism are invited to review, as cursorily as they please, my half-decade of commentary here on the Reg.)

              That hypocritical equation of every viewpoint with every other is, while superficially lovely, no more than a subtle way of defining first principles in such a way as to discredit anyone who disagrees. After all, if progressives really did decline to privilege any perspective over any other, what point to progressivism in the first place?

              But it sure is handy when you want to take an understanding like mine, which I have developed through study of true history as opposed to Whig historiography -- and, in passing, let me note that this idea, that there is no such thing is true history, is part and parcel of that discrediting-by-first-principles to which I refer -- and dismiss it out of hand by saying "Well, that's just your worldview, and there's nothing wrong with you having it but you have to understand there's nothing wrong with anyone else's, too."

              Quaker hypocrisy truly is depthless, isn't it? This kind of amazing argumentative judo is not really an accomplishment, but rather merely commonplace, among the Dissenter ilk. Whether or not anyone feels the need to agree with me, that no Quaker ever takes a step but he leaves a smoking, sulfurous hoofprint in the ground behind him*, one must certainly marvel at their utter shamelessness when it comes to the end justifying the means.

              * In the spirit of offering assistance to the hapless, I feel it necessary to note, that this rather colorful clause is a metaphor.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    broken link :/

    too bad the link to the story on wright-patterson's web site is broken :?

    i was looking forward to reading the rest of the story... their search even fails with a plain text page stating "page not found" in the upper left corner :(

    1. Richard Chirgwin (Written by Reg staff)

      Re: broken link :/

      I will double check the link. The press release is working fine here:

      Richard Chirgwin

      1. Patrick R

        Re: The press release is working fine here

        Not here.

        1. Paw Bokenfohr

          Re: The press release is working fine here

          Nor for me. "File not found."

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Thumb Up

        Re: broken link :/

        Works fine here too.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: broken link :/

      'File not Found' here too.

  5. Anonymous Coward

    Rogered ramjet.

    1. /dev/me

      Damn you sir, I say, damn you!

      After a quarter of a century, I now have that tune stuck in my head again...

      tududup tudududum tadadatatada jadadadadadada tadadatatada

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Damn you sir, I say, damn you!

        If I didn't say then someone else would have :-)

  6. Richard 81

    New York to London in less than 1 hour?

    Wow! That's only a little bit faster that going 50 miles by train.

    What an age we live in!

    1. annodomini2

      Re: New York to London in less than 1 hour?

      Depends on the train:

      Another idea we pretty much gave away!

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: New York to London in less than 1 hour?

        FTA - "The Beijing-Tianjin corridor uses conventional railway technology"

        So, the idea we "pretty much gave away" is the train? If you meant maglev, there's just an incidental mention of the Shanghai airport link.

        Arguably, the concept being ripped off here is the shinkansen.

    2. El Cid Campeador

      Re: New York to London in less than 1 hour?

      Reminds me of the joke that was circulating during WWII:

      An American soldier is bragging in an English pub about how great Texas is: "Why in Texas, you can get on a train, ride all day, sleep all night, ride all day, sleep all night, and you're STILL in Texas!" One of the locals gets up, walks over, pats him on the shoulder and says sympathically, "It's all right, we have trains like that in England too."

  7. Ken 16 Silver badge

    I think they need to put a pilot in it

    He can tell them what's going wrong and his presence will focus the minds of the engineers.

    No pressure.

    1. Tom 13

      Re: I think they need to put a pilot in it

      Nah. We have the tech these days to keep the pilot on the ground and they're expensive to replace.

      Put in the engineer instead. He'll know better what he's looking for/at anyway.

  8. Steve Crook

    Why bother

    When we all know they're already flying much faster craft using the technology they obtained from the greys during interrogation at Area 51. I can only assume that this is essentially a fake project to make people assume that the contrails are from scramjet tests...

  9. David Gosnell

    Design theory

    " The design theory is that the intake air compression resulting from supersonic flight is sufficient to run the engine without the moving parts needed by conventional jets "

    I thought it was more that there's plenty sufficient air intake, indeed that there's too much when that air's coming in at supersonic speeds. Hence SC (supersonic compression) Ramjet rather than a normal ramjet, which would be able to self sustain as described with subsonic airstream that wouldn't basically extinguish the engine.

  10. Bob 18


    This has absolutely no civilian use, especially not with $100/barrel oil. The Concorde was never more than a niche product because it was a total gas guzzler. High-bypass turbofans, turboprops, blended wingtips and similar technology are the wave of the future, not hypersonic transport.

  11. John Smith 19 Gold badge

    Makes a nice USAF weapon system

    It's *really* fast (boys with their toys).

    It's not a rocket and while it still has an air inlet they *might* get a version that could carry a pilot (see point 1)

    It does not use Hydrogen which is a real PITA as a fuel due to its logistics and storage.

    It does not use a re-purposed ICBM, whose overflight of several countries would make them pretty nervous.

    And best of all

    It does not use a re-purposed ICBM operated by the *Navy*.

    Now if they could just get it to *work* that would be great.

  12. Faye Berdache

    Brain drain

    Maybe they could ask some British scientists for a little help with this project. Ooops sorry, I'll get my coat.

  13. Tank boy

    Stop the madness!

    Why is the Air Force building this? People gnash their teeth and stamp their feet because President Obama is cutting the Defense budget. Truth is, Congress holds the proverbial pursestrings. No matter, let's vilify him anyway, and when all these horrible experimental programs go to shit, blame him anyway. That money could have been put to much better use helping military families, or better, Veterans.

  14. Dan Paul
    Black Helicopters

    Weapon or Pure Research

    Some one had asked if the Concorde was designed as a weapon. Long before there was a Concorde, there was the North American XB-70 "Valkyrie" which flew in tests up to Mach 3. The XB-70 looks almost identical to the Concorde with the exception of the twin tail fins and canards. Even the nose tilted the same for better field of view on the ground.

    The XB-70 was designed as a supersonic nuclear bomber which was supposed to be able to fly fast and high enough that Soviet anti-aircraft missiles could not reach it. Unfortunately, their missiles were eventually able to reach greater heights than 74,000 ft, the top ceiling of the XB-70 and at greater speeds. The XB-70 had lots of structural problems due to large forces and temperatures applied to the wings and other control surfaces at such high speeds.

    Though the XB-70 used conventional turbine engines, there was top secret work (now declassified) done in the 60's at Bell Aerospace in Niagara Falls, NY to test scramjet (Self Contained Ram Jet) engines that used very toxic oxidizers to allow the XB-70 to reach low earth orbit with conventional JP4 fuel. There was work done in the 50's on other types of fuels (Boranes) for the XB-70 but that was abandoned because that fuel caused wear and buildup on turbine blades.

    This Mach 3 plus capability would have allowed US nuclear bombers to fly far outside the range of any existing missiles and fly a hyperbolic path over the North Pole to the Soviet Union.

    The advent of the ICBM eventually stopped further research into this bomber technology until another generation of politicians and aerospace companies felt the need to spend more taxpayer money unwisely.

    Others have commented that we should not be spending money on such projects as the Hypersonic Wave Scramjet.

    There is something to be said for the gains in general technology from defense or pure research projects. We have made many gains in metallurgy, materials and manufacturing processes from supersonic testing.

    The other benefit of spending on weapons/space research was that it helped to bankrupt the Soviet Union when we would let stuff "slip out" on space based laser initiative, stealth or whatever, they would spend billions to "catch up" and we did not have to go to war to do it.

    1. John Smith 19 Gold badge

      Re: Weapon or Pure Research

      "The XB-70 looks almost identical to the Concorde with the exception of the twin tail fins and canards. "

      No it does not. Concorde's wing is *very* subtle. It allowed the designers to *avoid* both canards (which the Tu144 ended up needing) *and the rotating wing tips (the *biggest* swing wings ever built at the time). It's called compression lift on the XB70.

      "Unfortunately, their missiles were eventually able to reach greater heights than 74,000 ft, the top ceiling of the XB-70 and at greater speeds."

      *partly* true. ICBM's are faster and were expected to survive expected improvements in air defense (I doubt *anyone* thought they'd still be unstoppable 6 decades after they went into service). The XB70's radar cross section due to its stainless steel honeycomb construction and 3 sided metal reflector wing layout is also *huge*.

      ".. test scramjet (Self Contained Ram Jet) engines that used very toxic oxidizers to allow the XB-70 to reach low earth orbit with conventional JP4 fuel. "

      That's Supersonic Combustion Ram Jet to most people. Engines that use toxic *oxidizers* are usually called *rockets*. Boranes were viewed as an exciting new *fuel* and IIRC the US Navy spent several 100 $m on Project Zip. It's *very* toxic, gums the turbines and is highly eroding as it's high melting point combustion products solidify quickly, effectively shot blasting the insides of the engine. I think they also make quite a good WMD in a pinch.

      " they would spend billions to "catch up" and we did not have to go to war to do it."

      This was primarily the Strategic Defense Initiative of the 80's.

      But other than that your post is more or less correct.

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