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Air Force tests hypersonic aircraft with speeds of 3600 mph

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An X-51A WaveRider hypersonic flight test vehicle is uploaded to an Air Force Flight Test Center B-52 for fit testing at Edwards Air Force Base. Four scramjet-powered Waveriders were built for the Air Force. The Los Angeles Times says the unmanned X-51 WaveRider is expected to reach Mach 6 _ or about 3,600 mph _ Tuesday, Aug. 14, 2012, when it's dropped by a B-52 bomber and takes flight off the Southern California coast near Point Mugu.AP Photo/U.S. Air Force, Chad Bellay

The Air Force plans a key test of an experimental aircraft designed to fly at six times the speed of sound, or about 3,600 mph.

The Los Angeles Times reports the unmanned X-51 WaveRider is expected to reach Mach 6 Tuesday when it's dropped by a B-52 bomber and takes flight off the Southern California coast near Point Mugu.

Engineers hope it sustains its top speed for 300 seconds, twice as long as it's gone before.

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.