Aug 15, 2012 No Comments ›› Pat Dollard
(FOX NEWS) After approximately 15 seconds of flight, the experimental aircraft designed to fly at six times the speed of sound was unable to maintain control during a test run Tuesday and was lost, the Air Force said in a statement.
The unmanned X-51A WaveRider was expected to reach Mach 6 after it was dropped by a B-52 bomber off the Southern California coast near Point Mugu, but a faulty control fin compromised the flight.
“It is unfortunate that a problem with this subsystem caused a termination before we could light the Scramjet engine,” Charlie Brink, the X-51A program manager said in a statement. “All our data showed we had created the right conditions for engine ignition and we were very hopeful to meet our test objectives.”
Engineers hoped the aircraft would sustain its top speed for five minutes, twice as long as it’s gone before.
The B-52 took to the skies Tuesday, but no other information about the test flight was available, John Haire, a spokesman for Edwards Air Force Base in California, said in an e-mail.
Last year, in its most recent test, the X-51 fell for about four seconds before its booster rocket ignited, but the aircraft failed to separate from the rocket and plunged into the ocean.
Designed by Boeing Co., the aircraft is intended to allow the Pentagon to deliver strikes around the globe within minutes.
The aircraft safely separated from the B-52 and the rocket booster fired, but the control subsystem that had proven reliable in the previous two flights failed, the statement said.