The US Air Force has recently indicated a renewed interest in developing a hypersonic vehicle platform, intended for weapons application and as a reusable testbed for hypersonic studies called the high-speed reusable flight research vehicle (HSRFRV), according to an article in Aviation Week.
The USAF discussed a hypersonics roadmap at a government-industry workshop meeting in Washington DC Dec. 8-9, 2010, that called for maintaining the recent advancements in hypersonics gained with the X-51A WaveRider, X-37B Orbital Test Vehicle and HTV-2 hypersonic test. The plan was disclosed to the public by Steven Walker, deputy assistant secretary of the Air Force for science, technology and engineering, at the 49th AIAA Aerospace Sciences Meeting in Orlando, Florida.
The weapons path would be fast-tracked, with development of a demonstrator over five years and first flight by October 2016. Three major options for the demonstrator include an “X-51-like” vehicle that would, like the WaveRider, be air-launched from a B-52. A second option would cover development of a “tactically compliant” high-speed version that could be carried internally by the Northrop Grumman B-2, and externally by the Lockheed Martin F-35. A third option, also involving a B-2/F-35-capable launch, would be an all-new vehicle configuration.
The HSRFRV will feature a turbine-based combined cycle (TBCC) system, as well as the ability to take off and land on a runway. The HSRFRV’s TBCC will combine a high-Mach turbojet with a dual-mode ramjet/scramjet, with the two sharing a common inlet and nozzle, just as in the former Blackswift project’s HTV (pictured above) that was cancelled in October, 2008. Walker said that the HSRFRV is scheduled for a first flight in October 2021 (That is a long time to wait!!) and will be able to fly for up to 15 minutes at or above Mach 4.
Let us keep our fingers crossed on this one. All other hypersonics projects have been cancelled for one reason or another.
Here is another article on the same story from Aviation News.