The X-51A Waverider: Pentagon’s Hypersonic Long-Range Rapid Attack Weapon

The X-51A Waverider, carried under the wing of a B-52H Stratofortress bomber, prepares to launch the fourth and final flight over the Pacific Ocean. The X-51A, an experimental, unmanned aircraft, went hypersonic during a test off the Southern California coast, traveling at more than 3,000 mph, the Air Force said Friday. (U.S. Air Force) Photo by: Bobbi Zapka

The X-51A Waverider, carried under the wing of a B-52H Stratofortress bomber, prepares to launch the fourth and final flight over the Pacific Ocean. The X-51A, an experimental, unmanned aircraft, went hypersonic during a test off the Southern California coast, traveling at more than 3,000 mph. (U.S. Air Force) Photo: Bobbi Zapka

Bill Gertz reports:  An experimental scramjet-powered, ultrahigh speed strike vehicle is emerging as the Pentagon’s main choice for a new long-range, rapid attack weapon, a seniorPentagon official says.

Alan R. Shaffer, principal deputy assistant defense secretary for research and engineering, told a defense industry conference that prototypes and recent tests proved concepts for hypersonic arms, and several systems are part of a high-priority effort by Pentagon weapons developers, despite the era of sharply-diminished defense spending.

Hypersonic vehicles can deliver nuclear or conventional payloads in precision strikes against increasingly hard-to-penetrate air defenses of countries like China,Russia and Iran, he said.

“We, the U.S., do not want to be the second country to understand how to have controlled scramjet hypersonics,” Mr. Shaffer told the Precision Strike Association’s annual review on Tuesday.

Photo by: Chad Bellay

Photo by: Chad Bellay

The comments come 2 1/2 months after China’s surprise Jan. 9 test of a new hypersonic glide vehicle, dubbed the Wu-14. That ultrahigh speed maneuvering vehicle test represents a major challenge for current U.S. missile defenses, which are designed to counter non-maneuvering ballistic missile threats.

Lee Fuell, a technical intelligence specialist with the Air Force National Air and Space Intelligence Center, told a congressional China commission hearing Jan. 31 that China’s hypersonic glide vehicle is a ballistic missile-launched system that glides and maneuvers to its target at speeds up to Mach 10 (about 7,611 mph).

“At this point, we think that’s associated with their nuclear deterrent forces,” saidMr. Fuell, who noted the Chinese could use the system with conventional warheads for long-range precision strikes.

Mr. Shaffer declined to comment on how the Chinese hypersonic test has changed U.S. plans for hypersonic weapons…Read more…

Washington Times


One Comment on “The X-51A Waverider: Pentagon’s Hypersonic Long-Range Rapid Attack Weapon”

  1. […] Pundit from another Planet Bill Gertz reports: An experimental scramjet-powered, ultrahigh speed strike vehicle is emerging as […]


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