Pentagon’s X-plane: Strike any target on Earth in an hour by 2016

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, or DARPA, says that an unmanned hypersonic vehicle that soars through the sky at 20 times the speed of sound could be ready within the next four years.

If researchers can make that objective, DARPA scientists will be in a position to give the government the ability to propel their Hypersonic Technology Vehicle 2 (HTV-2) — the so-referred to as “X-plane” — to anyplace in the world in a matter of minutes.

Anyplace in minutes? That’s the program. By shooting the X-plane through the air at Mach 20 — or around 13,000 miles per hour (20,900 kph), the military will be able to attack even the most remote, far away targets if the vehicle can be equipped with weaponry. The program is part of an ongoing mission conducted by the Conventional Prompt International Strike weapons program, which the military hopes will ultimately enable Americans to strike anywhere in mere minutes.

What can be achieved in the subsequent few stages of research, of course, will be essential in figuring out specifically what can be accomplished. One huge hurdle, for instance, is figuring out how to manage the 3,500 degrees Fahrenheit temperatures the car will experience at such a rapidly speed. Scientists say that the craft will be “recoverable,” though, in that, after dispatched, the control team will be able to collect the X-plane and re-use it, ideally, for other missions.

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