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The X-51 Hypersonic missile will be launched into action later this month.  (Source: Weapons Blog)

Another view of the craft  (Source: U.S. Air Force)
The U.S. Air Force is set to successfully launch a Boeing X-51 for 300 seconds of hypersonic flight

By the end of this month, the U.S. Air Force will begin a series of hypersonic tests that will send a scramjet into the atmosphere for about five minutes, at nearly five times the speed of sound. A scramjet is a supersonic combustion ramjet, while a ramjet is a jet engine using the engine's forward motion to compress air.
If all goes as planned, this will be the first time that an aircraft will have flown at such speeds for more than a few seconds of time.

In previous attempts, the NASA X-43 was powered-up for just 10 seconds of flight.  The X-43 was tested four times in 2004 and was hydrogen-powered.

This time around, the U.S. Air Force will be testing the X-51 Waverunner, which runs on compressed air that ignites fuel by combustion.  The X-51 is designed to be dropped from beneath a B-52 bomber.

A rocket booster will ignite and accelerate the Waverunner.  It will then run its course -- from Mach 1 to Mach 6 -- under its own power,  at which time the nose of the X-51 is expected to reach at least 1,480 degrees F.

The aircraft fuel will then be piped through tubes around the engine surface and will help warm the fuel to the temperature needed to ignite it as well as draw off heat to keep the engine from melting.  

According to 
Popular Mechanics,  the X-51 Waverunner is a global strike missile that is part of the Prompt Global Strike research project being developed by Boeing and the U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory and Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency. 

The Waverunner is said to be a warhead in the making, which will be filled with thousands of rods 12 times as destructive as a .50-caliber bullet, targeted to shower a designated area.

It is being developed for precision, speed, and range and has been designed to strike any place on the planet in an estimated 60 minutes.

The long-term goal is to design airplanes and missiles that would reach Mach 25.  The U.S. Air Force plans to conduct up to four tests of the Waverunner this year.

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RE: Some addl info
By porkpie on 5/9/2010 9:36:10 PM , Rating: 2
"I suppose if you think of going after O_ama Bin Laden you can't really use cruise missiles"

You can actually...but cruise missiles can take 2-3 hours to arrive, by which time your target may well have moved on. In fact, the primary impetus for this program (or so it's reported) was the failed Tomahawk attack on Bin Ladin, who left camp before the missile arrived.

RE: Some addl info
By ekv on 5/9/2010 10:13:54 PM , Rating: 2
You CAN do virtually anything. In fact, you CAN give me a bb gun and send me marching. The effectiveness may not be so hot, and it'll take a rather longer period of time than 2-3 hours 8) This was the context of my statement.

Clinton's Tomahawk's were launched on August 20, 1998. The HyTech and Fasthawk, which are feeder programs for the x-51, both pre-date that time. It is possible the given scenario is a primary impetus, but just that. Unless, you have a link that says otherwise?

RE: Some addl info
By porkpie on 5/9/2010 10:34:19 PM , Rating: 2
" The HyTech and Fasthawk, which are feeder programs for the x-51, both pre-date that time."

Fasthawk was defunded in 1998, the same year it was reported that the small, low-funded HyTech wouldn't result in an actual hypersonic missile before 2015 at the earliest.

Then we missed Bin Laden in Afghanistan, and HyTech suddenly resurfaces as the much better funded and higher profile X-51 program, with first flight tests originally planned for 2009. Draw your own conclusions as to what sort of boost this incident gave the program.

RE: Some addl info
By Calin on 5/10/2010 6:17:11 AM , Rating: 2
Fueling for some ICBM missiles is at about one hour - this weapon's purpose is to be able to hit an ICBM site between the time it started fueling, and the time the ICBM is in flight.
People are researching ways to bring down an ICBM in flight - but it's a small target (at most tens of square meters) moving at a very very high speed (and most of the time, it's very distant). Hitting them while staying on the launch pad is much easier (stationary missile and a lot of flammable substances) and safer (it's destroyed in the enemy's back yard).

RE: Some addl info
By DanNeely on 5/10/2010 6:37:24 AM , Rating: 2
Most remaining ICBM's are solid fuel designs. Once they became available everyone rushed to replace their liquid fuel models because the hypergolic fuels were so dangerous.

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