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Multi-national Agreement to Advance High-speed Flight
The U.S. Air Force and Australian Department of Defence signed a multi-national
research partnership to explore and develop fundamental hypersonic technologies.
By Larine Barr / Air Force Research Laboratory Public Affairs
WRIGHT-PATTERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Ohio, Nov. 15, 2006 – The U.S. Air Force and Australian Department of Defence signed a multi-national research partnership Nov. 10 in Canberra, Australia, which will explore and develop fundamental hypersonic technologies, and experimental methodologies that could enable the next generation of weapon systems.

The $54 million agreement represents one of the largest collaborations of its kind between the two nations.

The Air Force Research Laboratory and the Australian Defence Science and Technology Organisation are leading the effort, including coordination of research tasks to be performed with NASA, U.S. industry, the Australian Hypersonics Consortium, and the Hypersonics Research Group at the University of Queensland.

Air Force chief scientist Dr. Mark Lewis, along with Australian chief defence scientist Dr. Roger Lough, signed the agreement at a joint meeting in Canberra, officially kicking off the project.

The research effort has been established under a new bi-lateral agreement, secured under the existing Deutch-Ayers Memorandum of Understanding.   

Called the Hypersonic International Flight Research Experimentation, or HiFIRE, program, it will span six years of basic and applied research. Its goal is to observe and understand hypersonic phenomena.

The program also includes up to 10 flight experiments using an experimental payload, launched to realistic hypersonic flight conditions.  Hypersonic speeds are reached at Mach 5, or five times the speed of sound. 

Hypersonic capability is of interest to the Air Force for its ability to enable “game changing” operations

that exploit speed and responsiveness in both near and far-term applications.

“We envision air-breathing powered hypersonic cruise missiles in the near-term, which are able to deliver prompt, precision strike of time critical targets from safe, standoff distances,” said Air Force program manager Douglas Dolvin, who is with Air Force Research Laboratory’s Air Vehicles Directorate at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base.  “In the far-term, these air-breathing hypersonic vehicles may enable operationally responsive space access.”

Both countries see hypersonic flight as a revolutionary advancement that will work to transform both air and space defense operations.

Senator Sandy Macdonald, Australian Parliamentary Secretary for Defence, said hypersonic flight promises to have a significant impact on defence as well as on international transport and future access to space.

“The Australian Defence Force is developing a high-technology, network-enabled force and its reliance on space is increasing for intelligence gathering, communications and a range of support operations,” Macdonald said. “Hypersonics offers low cost methods of transporting payloads into space, using reusable air breathing propulsion systems.”

According to Dolvin, scientists from Air Force Research Laboratory and the Australian Defence Science and Technology Organisation will conduct computational and ground test research at numerous government facilities.

Each research task will culminate with a rocket-boosted flight experiment, to be conducted at the Woomera Prohibited Test Range in South Australia. The test range is the largest land weapons test and evaluation facility in the world, covering 127,000 square kilometers.

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Aug. 27, 2014
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