LOS ANGELES — An experimental, unmanned aircraft developed for the Air Force went hypersonic during a test off the Southern California coast, traveling at more than 3,000 mph, the Air Force said Friday.
The X-51A WaveRider flew for more than three minutes under power from its exotic scramjet engine and hit a speed of Mach 5.1, or more than five times the speed of sound.
The test on Wednesday marked the fourth and final flight of an X-51A by the Air Force, which has spent $300 million studying scramjet technology, which it hopes can be used to deliver strikes around the globe within minutes.
The previous three flights ended in failure or didn't reach the intended speed.
Though the WaveRider was designed to reach Mach 6, or six times the speed of sound, program officials were satisfied with its performance in the latest test.
"It was a full mission success," program manager Charlie Brink of the Air Force Research Laboratory at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base said in a statement.
The missile-shaped WaveRider was released from a B-52 bomber 50,000 feet above the Pacific Ocean and was initially accelerated by a rocket before the scramjet kicked in. The flight ended with a planned plunge into the ocean.