A project backed by the U.S. government’s Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency has pushed the known limits on long flights, staying aloft for more than two days and two nights, and landing with more than half of the fuel it carried into the sky, says a report in Joseph Farah’s G2 Bulletin.
It’s just the latest in a long list of U.S. flight achievements, most of them associated with the military. Drones, for example, have been used for all sorts of surveillance and intelligence work by the U.S. virtually around the globe, from Afghanistan to North Dakota.
The X-15 was the first operational space plane, the first to reach an altitude of more than 100 kilometers and the first to reach a speed of mach 6.7 – or about 7,200 miles per hour. Piloted by William J. “Pete” Knight, in 1967 it captured the title as the fastest manned aircraft.
Then there was the Lockheed SR-71 Blackbird, used by the Air Force as well as NASA, which was used for reconnaissance and research.
The Blackbird was so fast, with a top speed of mach 3.3, that the air in front of it did not have time to escape, building up tremendous pressure and high temperatures. According to the Migflug blog, some details about the jet remain secret.
The leading edge of the wing would reach 1,100 degrees because of the friction created by the speed from the twin Pratt & Whitney J58 jet engines, which used afterburners continuously.
It was so fast that if an enemy nation had spotted one during oa reconnaissance flight, the jet could simply outrun any missiles.
In 1981, Kelly Johnson, one of the jet’s designers, confirmed that more than 1,000 missiles had been launched at the SR-71, “but none of them had hit.”
The new project backed by DARPA focuses not only on speed but endurance.
“A DARPA-backed small business effort broke boundaries for long-endurance flight … by launching a uniquely designed, combustion-powered unmanned aircraft that stayed aloft for more than two days and two nights,” the agency reported. “The flight was terminated several days ahead of schedule because of incoming weather. But the craft – built by Vanilla Aircraft of Falls Church, Virginia – landed safely with more than half its fuel still onboard, suggesting it is capable of setting additional records for powered flight in its weight and power class and could ultimately offer important new capabilities to ground forces and others.”
Such craft are critical to military forces today.
They bring communications or intelligence capabilities, surveillance options and reconnaissance.
The new project is designed to have the propeller-driven VA001 “carry a 30-pound payload at 15,000 feet for up to 10 days without refueling.”