On November 17, the first successful tests of hypersonic weapons were held in the USA. And on November 22, Russian Defense Minister Anatoly Serdyukov announced at the board of the military department that the aerospace defense system being created in Russia would allow intercepting any missiles, even hypersonic ones. And about the fact that our country has maneuvering hypersonic nuclear warheads capable of overcoming any missile defense system, our leaders have been saying since 2005.
The description of the characteristics of high-speed aircraft uses the Mach number, so named after the Austrian scientist Ernst Mach (German E. Mach). This number does not have a strictly defined digital value, and in a simplified form it is the ratio of the speed of the body (aircraft) to the speed of sound in a given air environment. For approximate calculations, the Mach number (M) at altitudes up to 10 thousand meters is taken as 1.1–1.2 thousand km / h.
The division of aircraft (LA) into subsonic, supersonic and hypersonic is not conditional, but has a clear physical basis. And these three classes of aircraft have fundamental differences. Supersonic aircrafts can fly at a speed of no more than 5 M. Hypersonic aircrafts have a flight speed of more than 5 M. At the same time, they are capable of moving to dynamic planning for long ranges while maintaining high speed.
In the United States, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency DARPA conducted a tender in 2003 to carry out the conceptual work on the development of the Falkon hypersonic aircraft (“Falcon”). Nine companies received contracts from 350 thousand to 540 thousand dollars. At the next stage in the same year, Andrews Space Inc. received contracts for the development of a hypersonic vehicle worth from 1.2 million to 1.5 million dollars. (Seattle), Lockheed Martin Aeronautics Co. (Palmdale, CA) and Northrop Grumman Corp. (El Segundo, California).
One of the tasks was to create a Hypersonic Cruise Vehicle (HCV) cruise missile, capable of overcoming 9 thousand nautical miles (17 thousand km) in two hours and delivering the head part weighing 12 thousand pounds (5500 kg). In this case, the flight must occur at a very high altitude at speeds up to 20 M.
The project HTV-3X Blackswift was intended to demonstrate the flight and the development of a combined propulsion system from a turbine and a ramjet engine. The turbine was supposed to accelerate the device to about 3 M, and the ramjet engine – up to 6 M. The Lockheed Martin Skunk Works, Boing, ATK corporations were attracted to the development. The largest aircraft engine manufacturer Pratt & Whitney was also invited to cooperate.
The main task, according to DARPA Deputy Director Dr. Stephen Walker, was to overcome skepticism – showing a real flying hypersonic device. This is in addition to the development of technology and testing of structural materials. In the future, it was about creating a hypersonic manned aircraft capable of taking off in an aircraft from the runway in the US and landing in an hour or two at any point of the globe on the same lane. However, for 2009, the HTV-3X Blackswift program did not receive funding, and the project was closed.
So far, all test flights of prototypes and experimental models are carried out with the help of airplanes or carrier rockets — a vertical launch with a transition at high altitude to horizontal flight at supersonic speeds. Further acceleration to hypersonic speed, separation of the aircraft from the carrier and its planning dynamic flight with preservation of hypersonic speed. For this, the apparatus has a delta wing. Whether real devices are similar to those pictures that are placed in the media, this question remains open. If they are similar, then most likely it is very remote.
According to the representative of the research laboratory of the US Air Force, the first flight of the X-51A “got a solid four”, and the next time it will receive the top five. At that time, even such a short flight of a new type of apparatus looked like a victory. After all, the previous record of the duration of the flight at hypersonic speed was only 12 seconds. This happened on March 27, 2004 when testing the experimental model X-43A. At that time, the B-52 carrier plane was also used, and a Pegasus (Pegasus) cruise missile was used to disperse. Start was made at an altitude of 12 km. The separation of the apparatus from the Pegasus occurred at an altitude of 29 km, then a direct-flow jet engine started working for 10 seconds. With speedy planning with a reduction, it was possible to achieve a speed of 7 M, that is, 8350 km / h. According to other data, the speed of the X-43A was 11 265 km / h (or 9, 8 M) at an altitude of 33.5 km. Which figure is more realistic is difficult to judge, but experts are guided by a smaller one. The results of the experiment opened the way to the next project – X-51A.
During the second test of the X-51A on June 13, 2011, the engine failure story repeated. But this time it was not possible to restart it, and the device fell into the waters of the Pacific Ocean near the coast of California. And this has already been regarded as a serious delay in the creation of the current sample. Apparently, the problem in the ramjet engine. Now you have to understand the causes of failure, rework design and build a new engine. It may take years.
The first hypersonic test flight of a test aircraft designed by Falcon HTV-2 (Force Application and Launch from Continental United States Hypersonic Technology Vehicle) took place on April 20, 2010. According to the flight task, the HTV-2 was launched from the US Air Force Vandenberg base using the Minotaur IV launch vehicle. This is a conversion version of the ICBM MX. The experimental device was supposed to fly 4,300 nautical miles (7,600 km) in half an hour and fall in the vicinity of the Reagan test site – Kwajalein Atoll (Marshall Islands). According to published data by the US Air Force, the launch vehicle brought the HTV-2 to the upper atmosphere and allegedly accelerated to a speed of 20 M – about 23 thousand km / h. At the same time, communication with the device was lost, telemetry information ceased to arrive. It is assumed that the stabilization was violated and the apparatus collapsed.
The most likely cause of failure in the DARPA considered the error with the determination of the center of gravity of the apparatus, insufficient mobility of the elevators and stabilizers, as well as the failure of the control system. When a computer simulated flight, a version appeared that the vehicle began to spin along the longitudinal axis, the control system could not stabilize it, and when the rotation reached a certain limit, the rocket self-destructed.
The main task of experiments with Falcon HTV-2 is to check the technology of thermal protection of the hull and control systems. A number of changes were made to the design of the next vehicle – shifting the center of gravity, adding miniature jet engines for accelerated reversal. The second test of the Falcon HTV-2 was held on August 11, 2011. The exit to the upper layers of the atmosphere, the separation from the launch vehicle at a speed of 20 M and the transition to planning went smoothly. However, with sliding planning, the shell began to heat up to a temperature close to 2000 degrees Celsius. The flight was supposed to last 30 minutes, but after nine minutes the device lost its flight stability, began to tumble unpredictably, communications were interrupted, and the command to self-destruct followed.
The official statement of the Pentagon on the results of the tests reported: “The purpose of the tests is to collect data on testing the performance of hypersonic technologies in conditions of prolonged flight in the atmosphere. Emphasis was placed on the aerodynamic qualities of the apparatus, its guidance, control and monitoring systems, as well as the heat shield. The resulting information will be used to improve the hypersonic aircraft.”
In a series of media reports, the device was called a planning bomb. But actually it is a warhead. And it is likely that one day the United States, after Russian leaders, will announce that they also have maneuvering hypersonic warheads for intercontinental ballistic missiles. As well as hypersonic cruise missiles and unmanned combat vehicles.