What we know about Boeing’s hypersonic strike aircraft that aims to ‘circle the world in 1-3 hours’

Few details have emerged since the aerospace company Boeing revealed plans for a new hypersonic aircraft with surveillance and strike capabilities. It aims to build it in the next 10-20 years but already faces some competition.

Aviation Week reported that the design for the aircraft, thought to be named “Valkyrie II,” was first unveiled at the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics SciTech forum in Orlando, Florida back in January. Although the project is yet to be officially green-lighted, a statement by the company claims the aircraft can fly across the world “in one to three hours” and carry out airstrikes and reconnaissance missions.

“This is one of several concepts and technologies we’re studying for a hypersonic aircraft,” said Kevin Bowcutt, Senior Technical Fellow of hypersonics at Boeing Research & Technology. “This particular concept is for a military application that would be targeted for an intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, or ISR, and strike capabilities.”

Concept art posted to Boeing’s official website and Facebook shows a twin-tail, highly swept delta-wing jet in a so-called “waverider” design, which enables it to use its own shockwaves to increase its lift and reduce drag. But as Aviation Week notes, Boeing are constantly improving their designs so this picture may not look like the final model.

In a live video on Facebook Friday, Kevin Bowcutt said using waverider technology, the hypersonic craft would be able to cut through the air faster than a bullet fired from a gun.

“It’s two-and-a-half times the speed of a speeding bullet,” Bowcutt told viewers. “It’s more than twice as fast as the Concorde. So basically you can get anywhere in the world in one hour across the Atlantic, two hours across the Pacific – pretty much anywhere between two points in one-to-three hours.”

If Boeing follows through on the concept, it would put them in competition with Lockheed Martin’s SR-72 aircraft, a planned successor to its SR-71 Blackbird announced back in 2013. Both the SR-72 and Valkyrie II will use a combined-cycle engine and a dual ramjet/scramjet to accelerate over Mach 3 and jump to hypersonic speeds. Boeing will likely first make a smaller test plane, the size of an F-16 fighter jet, before moving on to a full-scale model.

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