On 12 Jan, 2018, Boeing revealed the first hypersonic conceptual demonstrator at Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics SciTech forum in Orlando, Florida, USA. According to Aviation week, Boeing in collaboration with Orbital ATK to develop a strike-and-reconnaissance aircraft (shown in the image above) that could fly faster than Mach 5.
According to Boeing, the wedge-shaped, twin-tail body is designed to minimize drag while gulping in as much air as possible and achieve hypersonic speed. The aircraft would achieve Mach 5-plus top speed by combined-cycle engine that incorporates elements of a turbine and a dual ramjet or scramjet.
The Boeing’s new hypersonic aircraft would leave SR 71’s top speed of Mach 3.2 far behind.
Boeing has already experimented hypersonic unmanned flights in 2013. The X-43 and X-51 which hit speeds of Mach 5.1 for more than three minutes before crashing into the ocean, but the aircraft was launched from a B-52 that used a jettisoned booster to reach Mach 5.1; but the challenge Boeing face would be that its new conceptual design should be able to takeoff, reach hypersonic speeds and land.
In the mean time, the Lockheed Martin also aims to develop a Mach 6 successor to the retired SR-71 Blackbird.
How Scramjets work?
According to NASA, “A ramjet operates by combustion of fuel in a stream of air compressed by the forward speed of the aircraft itself, as opposed to a normal jet engine, in which the compressor section (the fan blades) compresses the air. The air flow through a ramjet engine is subsonic, or less than the speed of sound. Ramjet-propelled vehicles operate from about Mach 3 to Mach 6.
A scramjet (supersonic-combustion ramjet) is a ramjet engine in which the airflow through the engine remains supersonic, or greater than the speed of sound. Scramjet powered vehicles are envisioned to operate at speeds up to at least Mach 15. Ground tests of scramjet combustors have shown this potential, but no flight tests have surpassed the Mach 9.6 X-43A flight.”