Air-Launched Weapons

US Air Force provides X-60A hypersonic flight test details

26 April 2019

A model of the X-60A on display at AFRL's Lab Day at the Pentagon on 25 April 2019. The silver nosecone in the lower right of the photo is the nose tip from a different hypersonic test flight called HiFire-5. Source: IHS Markit/Pat Host

The US Air Force (USAF) plans to use the first two test flights of its X-60A GOLauncher1 (GO1) hypersonic flight research vehicle as capability demonstrations before using further test flights for experimentation, according to a key official.

Doug Dolvin, Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) research leader for hypersonic flight research and experimentation, told Jane's on 25 April that the first test flight will perform sustained Mach 5 speeds while the second test flight will exceed Mach 6. The capability demonstrations, he said, will be used to validate system engineering.

Dolvin said the first two flight tests will be performed at the Cecil Spaceport in Jacksonville, Florida, and will fly south off the coast of Cape Canaveral. The USAF, he said, will have radar track and telemetry capture on the ground from the 45th Space Wing located at Cape Canaveral.

The USAF, Dolvin said, planned its first X-60A test flight for March 2020 and its second flight six months later. The goal, he said, is to deliver a much higher cadence level, perhaps four flights per year.

"This will enable us to be much more responsive," Dolvin said during AFRL's 2019 Lab Day at the Pentagon. "If one of the weapon system development programmes has an element they cannot address and falls through the gap, we can grab that technology and get to flight on the order of 4-6 months."

The X-60A can fly to a test condition, throttle back and hold that test condition, and engage in a different test condition all in the same flight. Dolvin said these test capabilities include the altitude, the Mach number, and aerothermal conditions. He said the X-60A's active control system also allows the air force to deliver different trajectories and conditions and induce different missions.

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