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US to test fastest aircraft ever, moves at 13,000mph

Update: The HTV-2 has been lost in flight, click here for the full story.

An aircraft will take to the skies on Thursday that flies so fast it would only take 12 minutes for it to travel from LA to New York.

But before you start getting excited about the prospect of the technology being incorporated into the next generation of Boeing or Airbus aircraft, be aware that this is an unmanned machine being developed by the Pentagon’s Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency for military use.

A Wall Street Journal report says that if all goes to plan on Thursday’s flight, the Pentagon’s Falcon Hypersonic Technology Vehicle 2, or HTV-2, could reach speeds of around 13,000mph – that’s 3.6 miles a second.

Weather permitting (a flight scheduled for Wednesday was scrapped due to bad weather), the test flight will begin on Thursday morning at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California when an Air Force Minotaur IV rocket takes the HTV-2 to the edge of space.

From there, the HTV-2 should separate from the rocket before flying over the Pacific at lightning speeds of up to Mach 20. At Mach 20, you could travel between London and Sydney in under 60 minutes.

The US military is interested in developing the hypersonic aircraft so that it can possess a machine which would be capable of reaching any part of the world in less than an hour. Presumably it would be armed to the teeth with weapons rather than delivering flowers.

Let’s hope Thursday’s test flight goes better than last year’s attempt when controllers lost contact with the craft just a few minutes after launch. The event won’t be shown online, though you can follow news and updates about it on the agency’s Twitter feed.

Image: DARPA