Air Force 'Hypersonic' Jet Sets New Speed Records

WASHINGTON -- An experimental aircraft has set a record for hypersonic flight.

The Air Force says the X-51A Waverider flew at six times the speed of sound for more than 3 minutes yesterday morning after being released from a B-52 off the southern California coast.

Its scramjet engine accelerated the vehicle to Mach 6, and it flew autonomously for 200 seconds before losing acceleration. At that point the test was terminated.

The Air Force says the previous record for a hypersonic scramjet burn was 12 seconds.

Charlie Brink, an X-51A program manager with the Air Force Research Laboratory at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio, says researchers equate the leap in engine technology "as equivalent to the post-World War II jump from propeller-driven aircraft to jet engines."

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The Waverider was built by Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne and Boeing.