Researchers from the Chinese Academy of Sciences in Beijing successfully tested their “I Plane” (named because it resembles a capital ‘I’ when viewed from the front) in a wind tunnel at speeds ranging from Mach 5 to Mach 7, or than 3,800 to 5,370 miles per hour. In their research, published in the journal Science China Physics, Mechanics & Astronomy, the team explains the hypersonic plane would only need a “couple of hours” to travel from Beijing to New York. For comparison, a commercial airline flight can take at least 14 hours.
An artist’s depection of the I Plane, a hypersonic plane being developed by China. It features a highly pointed nose with two sets of wings.
Testing has been successful so far, reports The South China Morning Post, with the craft producing low drag and high lift. As reported by the South China Morning Post, the I Plane’s lift was roughly 25 percent of that of a Boeing 737; compared to the 737’s ability to carry up to 20 tons, or 200 passengers, an I Plane of the same size could carry 5 tons or 50 passengers.
A researcher familiar with the project (who went unnamed) told the SCMP the I Plane could be used to transport bombs as well, saying it could be “something like a hypersonic heavy bomber;” incidentally, China also recently developed hypersonic missiles capable of traveling at speeds above 7,000 mph.
Popular Science notes the I Plane’s development reflects China’s desire to be a leader in the hypersonic arms race. China’s next hypersonic project includes a wind tunnel that can produce speeds of up to Mach 36, making it more capable than the Mach 30 LENX-X in Buffalo, New York.
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