Boeing has developed a hypersonic plane that is faster than a speeding bullet. So fast, in fact, that it could circle the globe in just three hours, according to the manufacturer. The plane is designed to use its own shockwaves to increase its speed, and it could herald an entirely new era of flight.
The plane was revealed last month, though we are just now getting real details about what it is like. The hypersonic plane is a ‘waverider’ style, which means that it uses the shock waves it creates to increase its speed. It is being developed as a reconnaissance or strike plane, and if it enters production, it will be the fastest plane ever produced, hitting speeds of Mach 5 or higher (that’s a mind-bending 3,836 mph).
The development of a hypersonic plane could change the way we engage in warfare, because it means that a threat could arrive so quickly, there would only be minutes to identify it and prepare a defense. It also means that if it were developed as a passenger plane you would be able to travel anywhere across the Atlantic in an hour, and anywhere across the Pacific in two hours. It would go more than twice as fast as the Concorde.
Aviation fans are calling the unmanned aircraft “Son of Blackbird,” because it is expected to be the successor of the legendary Lockheed Martin-developed Blackbird SR-71 plane. Some people speculate that it is being called “Valkyrie II” within the industry.
Lockheed Martin and Boeing have been locked in a battle to develop hypersonic travel. Lockheed Martin has also been developing its own hypersonic plane, called the SR-72. Only time will tell who breaks the speed barrier first.