All the global powers are trying to increase their flight speed. While Japan is trying to reintroduce supersonic speeds to their aircraft. China is working with many US companies to create aircraft which are capable of achieving hypersonic speeds and they are almost on their way to be launched. Researchers from the Chinese Academy of Sciences in Beijing have recently conducted a successful test of their “I Plane”. The name was given to the plane since it resembles a capital letter I when viewed from the front. The plane can fly at speeds ranging from Mach 5 to Mach 7.
The research published by the team explains the hypersonic plane which only needs a couple of hours to travel from Beijing to New York. A commercial airline flight usually takes almost 14 hours to cover the distance. Testing of the plane has been successful with the craft producing low drag and high lift. The South China Morning Post reported that the I Plane’s lift was roughly 25% as compared to a Boeing 737. The Boeing 737 is capable of carrying up to 20 tonnes which is almost 200 passengers while the I Plane can carry only 5 tonnes or 50 passengers.
A researcher said that the I Plane can be used to transport bombs as well saying that it would be “something like a hypersonic heavy bomber.” On a side note, China has also developed hypersonic missiles which can travel at speeds above 7000mph. The I Plane developed reflects that China is trying to lead the race of the hypersonic arms. Another one of China’s upcoming project includes a wind tunnel that can produce a speed of up to Mach 36. This speed will make the tunnel more capable than the Mach 30 LENX-X in Buffalo, New York. In February, US Admiral Harry Harris warned the Congress about China’s increasing interest in hypersonic technology. However, it is not that the US was not working on hypersonic projects of their own.
Researchers from NASA have discovered last year that boron nitride nanotubes can be a material which can make hypersonic air travel more feasible. It can allow the NASA planes to cross the country in less than an hours time. Furthermore, the US Navy is testing hypersonic weapons which are capable of hitting anywhere on the Earth within 60 minutes. Lockheed Martin hinted in January that the successor to SR-71 Blackbird, SR-72 will soon be released. The plane is already in development and it is expected that it will be flying by 2030. It will take some time to commercialize the hypersonic aircraft. For now, it is only relying on who will use the technology more effectively first.