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Developers hope to ground test a turbine engine at Mach 3.2 in the coming months, paving the way for long-range supersonic cruise missiles as well as potentially laying the foundation for a viable combined-cycle hypersonic propulsion system.
Testing of high-speed engines is being conducted separately by Rolls-Royce Liberty Works and Williams International under the U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory’s (AFRL) supersonic turbine engine for long-range (Stelr) program. A follow-on effort to the joint AFRL and Darpa (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency) high-speed turbine engine demonstration (Histed) program, Stelr is targeted at the development of Mach 3-plus weapons and vehicles. These include long-range standoff missiles, air-launched cruise missiles, unmanned air vehicles and advanced cruise missiles capable of sustaining flight at maximum Mach number for 1 hr.