The United States may soon become the world's undeniable leader in hypersonic technology, while Russia needs to step up efforts in this important area of research, Russian Engineering Academy Academic Advisor Yuri Zaitsev told Interfax-AVN. "The Pentagon has spent approximately $2 billion on the hypersonic aircraft program in the past decade. It seems American specialists will finally solve the hypersonic problem. The prospect of hypersonic missiles put into service by the United States requires an appropriate reaction of Russia," he said.
The U.S. Department of Defense had lately reported a new test of the X-51A WaveRider hypersonic drone whose velocity six times exceeds the speed of sound. The test was unsuccessful though. "Designers want X-51A to become a prototype of drones, which will reach a target within minutes. The United States thinks the drones may become an alternative to nuclear intercontinental ballistic missiles," Zaitsev said. "However, the third abortive test of the U.S. hypersonic aircraft in a row is rather a pattern than an accident," the expert said.
"In the past the U.S. decided that the construction of supersonic cruise missiles would be too expensive and focused on subsonic products. Hence U.S. designers have no experience of building supersonic cruise missiles, which our country [Russia] has, while hypersonic technologies realty present many problems," he said. Russian specialists had to solve super-high speed problems in building the X-90 hypersonic prototype called AS-19 Koala by the West.
"Domestic designers started working on supersonic rockets in the mid-1970s. The works were supposed to end by the middle of 1982, and the rocket was due to be commissioned the year after. The X-90 prototype reached the speed of Mach 2.5-3 (the Mach number is used to represent the speed of an object when it is traveling close to or above the speed of sound) in the late 1970s and Mach 3-4 in 1980," Zaitsev said.
"A significant technological foundation was laid down, which was far ahead of works of other countries and set the development vector. But the works were halted in the 1990s, which Vice-Premier Dmitry Rogozin justly described as a betrayal of national interests. The project resumed only in 2009, and Russia is lagging behind now," he said.
"Not a single country in the world but Russia has such super-high speed cruise missiles. We had to build them for passing through multi-level air defense and missile defense systems of what is called would-be aggressor. Researchers even considered the carrying of several supersonic cruise missiles by a heavy ballistic missile," he said.
Earlier reports said that the X-51A WaveRider was airdropped from a B-52 bomber on August 14. The accelerator turned on. The X-51A WaveRider engine was supposed to start four seconds after separation and develop the speed six times exceeding the speed of sound. But the control system had a failure 16 seconds after due to tailfin problems. It appeared another 15 seconds later the aircraft was unable to follow the intended trajectory and it was lost, the U.S. Department of Defense said.
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