Back in the spring of 2013 in the achingly blue Californian skies, an experimental jet aircraft created by Boeing and the American Air Force was released from its dock under the wing of a carrier aircraft, ignited its engine and reached a speed of Mach 5.1.
That's 1,735 metres per second, or in old fashioned Imperial, 3,400mph - a speed which would have seen the X-51A WaveRider travel from London to New York in under an hour.
The WaveRider scramjet uses an experimental air-breathing propulsion system, using a specially shaped tube with no moving parts to create a supersonic airflow through the engine with compressed air. It has cost Boeing and the US $300 million (£194m) to develop, and required having to invent a hydrocarbon fuel for the engine, in order to produce enough of a 'bang'.
And the eventual use of the scramjet engine? As a super-fast jet missile.
"We are the Air Force. What do we want to do with this technology? We want to weaponize it," Ryan Helbach, an official with the Air Force Research Laboratory, told Military.com. "The follow-on program to this is the High Speed Strike Weapon effort. It's taking a lot of the lessons learned and the technology and moving to a weapons acquisition."
By reducing the size of the jet to fit smaller aircraft, and strapping a small warhead to it, the system could be used as a "stand-off" weapon - allowing pilots to strike fast-moving targets from a safe distance. Unless you're the target, in which case, it's not very safe.
Here's hoping the technology trickles down into dull old civilian transportation systems at some point in the near future.
[Via: The Independent]