Engineering weapons and defense systems of the new generation is a science built around speed. In 2018, Russia made headlines when Vladimir Putin unveiled the Kh-47M2 Kinzhal missile in a simulated video showing the country’s hypersonic missile hitting the coast of Florida. Although the video wasn’t as flashy as the new iPhones, the message was clear: the age of hypersonic weapons has arrived.
What makes these weapons so deadly is that they are designed to counter modern air defense systems, and this hypersonic threat has continued to grow since the Kinjal was unveiled five years ago. When it comes to the hypersonic missile arms race, the United States appears to be lagging behind Russia and even China. But perhaps the delay is because the US military is chasing a bigger prize: a hypersonic bomber.
Now it’s time to meet the United States Air Force Series Hypersonic Bomber: the hypersonic multirole spy, surveillance, intelligence-gathering, and attack aircraft program, abbreviated as Project Mayhem. This powerful bomber has several advantages over its missile counterparts, but the biggest one is its efficiency. While missiles such as the Russian Kinzhal and Zircon and the Chinese Dongfeng-17 are each very expensive (about $100 million each), a supersonic aircraft with a speed of more than Mach 5—reportedly the speed of a bomb The Project Mayhem projectile will be over Mach 10 – it can be used over and over again.
The idea of a supersonic bomber goes back to the space race, which saw the North American X-15A-2 aircraft break the record of Mach 6.7 in 1967. Later advances in aerospace led to the creation of amazing flying machines such as the supersonic SR-71. Most likely, the Project Mayhem bomber will use a multi-cycle propulsion system, use a jet engine to reach Mach 3, and then go to an air-breathing scramjet to reach supersonic speeds.
But designing a reusable hypersonic aircraft at such a high speed has serious limitations. At Mach 5 and beyond, everything gets extremely hot, which is caused by friction and air resistance, so any aircraft that intends to reach this speed and survive must use advanced materials in Its body should be used, which have not been invented yet. Also, maneuverability at such speeds is a major engineering problem, and combining a conventional jet engine with a scramjet has never been successful.
Because of this unique operating environment and the need for precision-sensitive design, Project Mayhem turned to Model-Based Engineering (MBE) to digitally design all the systems on this theoretical aircraft. Frank Serna, senior director of Air Force Strategic Systems at Draper, said: “A key element of hypersonics development is implementing model-based engineering as a cost-effective way to evaluate conceptual designs before prototyping begins.” . Draper, which was involved in the design of the Apollo spacecraft guidance systems, has been working on hypersonic systems for decades. Last Wednesday, Draper announced that it had awarded a $334 million contract with the U.S. Air Force to begin work on the digital design of the country’s series of supersonic bombers, in partnership with engineering firm Leidos. Project Mayhem is likely to include a very detailed simulation of the difficult conditions of supersonic flight in dealing with heat and speed, known as hypersonic flight. The dream of a hypersonic aircraft in the arsenal of the United States Air Force is one of those dreams whose history goes back decades, and now it seems that engineers and scientists are working hard to make this dream a reality.