Posts Tagged ‘DARPA’

Mystery plane revealed

Ok – I have kept everyone in suspense for long enough. Here is a side view of the same plane – and you can start answering some of the questions I posed.

This was a flight demonstrator for the Shaped Sonic Boom program. The thought was that a modified underside of the aircraft’s fuselage could potentially reduce the sonic boom that an aircraft made when going supersonic (Mach 1+) speeds.

[The newest jet engine’s – i.e. the F119 on the F-22 Raptor – no longer has to go to afterburner to get to supersonic speeds. One of the reasons that the Concorde wasn’t able to make money (and got retired) was because it was constantly on afterburner (and burned a huge amount of jet fuel). Beyond the fuel costs – the other reason that the Concorde wasn’t successful – was because it was restricted to overwater flights. Because on an overwater flight – there was no homeowner’s association or EPA to complain about the noise pollution].

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When you absolutely positively have to hit it in 30 minutes

Imagine – you know that a high value target will be at Location “X” in approximately 30 minutes.

It is far from the Continental US and there isn’t a CVBG in range. And Congress (among a host of others – including me) didn’t like the idea of putting conventional warheads on old Minuteman III’s.

The war against Iraq started in 2003 with a strike very much like this. But in this case – there was a B-1 bomber loitering far overhead – that was able to dash in and drop a dedicated load of bombs in an attempt to take out Saddam Hussein (The decapitation strike was a result of Saddam giving false information to a possible traitor on his staff. USAF blew up the building – and Saddam knew who to have shot).

But what do you do when you don’t have a heavy bomber nearby? In Afghanistan – UAV’s – like the Predator and the Reaper have been flying as much as the pilots and the mechanics can support them. Both those still require a forward base for the UAV’s to launched and recovered to.

For years the US has dreamed of having something able to be launched from the continental US and be able to fly at hypersonic speeds to be able to hit a target.

DARPA’s FALCON project – has been an attempt to create just such a system.

The requirement – deliver a 12,000 lb payload, out to 9,000 miles, in under 2 hours.

[This is the first in a series of articles about FALCON – and whether or not it will ever happen]