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Boeing Unveils ‘Evolved’ Hypersonic Aircraft Model

Boeing unveiled a “reusable hypersonic” aircraft model at the AIAA SciTech aerospace forum in San Diego last week.

The wave rider-shaped model reportedly advances the hypersonic airliner concept the company released four years ago, unofficially named Valkyrie.

Aviation Week Senior Editor Guy Norris shared images of the model on Twitter, calling it a more “realistic Mach 5 reusable air-breathing design” compared to the previous iteration and claimed that the aircraft could potentially have military and space applications.

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Quite similar to the previous design, the newer version differs in having a flattened fuselage, blunt nose, shorter wings, twin tails, and separated air inlets. 

Boeing is supposed to have released the previous concept in reaction to Lockheed Martin’s unveiling of its SR-72 design concept, intended to be a reusable intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance aircraft. With the release of the latest design, the company strengthens its position in the hypersonic race.

Executive director of the National Defense Industrial Association’s Emerging Technologies Institute, Mark J. Lewis, revealed to Air Force Magazine that the Berkeley-based defense giant has been working on the aircraft for a while, claiming that the latest iteration is “a little bit closer to what they’ve been working on.”

“I think that previous configurations that they were showing at conferences and meetings did not accurately represent the configurations that they’ve been developing.”

Combined-Cycle Aircraft

Lewis said that the model is a combined-cycle aircraft with a gas turbine and scramjet engine. It uses the gas turbine engine during take-off and transitions to scramjet mode when sufficient speed has been achieved.

“Designing a propulsion flow path that goes from Mach 0 to Mach 5 or Mach 6” is a daunting task, Lewis said, and “the devil is really very much in the details. Boeing, I know, has put a tremendous amount of effort into studying that propulsion flow path. And I think the most recent model reflects their understanding of the challenge.”

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