Controlling air space, attacking and monitoring from the skies are a major part of the way the military protects the country. Warfare changes constantly and with it the need to develop new tactics for both attack and defence. During the 1960s & 70s the United States Air Force began researching and experimenting with hypersonic technology. The project was abandoned, but there has recently been a general restoration of interest. Due to the large time gap, there is a lot of research that needs to be done to catch up with where the technology has expanded and the methods by which it can now be used.
Hypersonic flights would be beneficial because they would be able to reach anywhere in the world within an hour. The military is looking at this possibility as one of the end results of developing the hypersonic technology. To get here, however, they realize that baby steps need to be taken. This would start within a decade by making it possible to launch hypersonic missiles. Prototypes should be ready by 2020, after which they will work on developing hypersonic drones, which will be able to move faster than the speed of sound.
The experiments that the Air Force have performed include 4 flights of a hypersonic cruise missile, X-51. The flights have had a 50% success rate, which has been the best way for researchers to determine what needs to be improved with the technology, and what is working well. They have taken these observations, made improvements and believe that they are now closer than ever to creating a functioning hypersonic engine.
Once the engine has been perfected, they will use it to guide missiles and subsequently apply the technology to armed drones and surveillance systems. Within several years, the US Air Force hopes to expand this hypersonic technology for use in manned fighters, and other aircrafts. There is currently a need for several overseas military bases, to allow the country to have worldwide access within a given amount of time. Hypersonic aircrafts would eliminate the need for these floating bases, while still being able to facilitate military personnel reaching their desired destination within an hour.
Many other countries are also working on developing the same type of hypersonic technology, both through government and private means. This includes Russia and China, who have reported hypersonic programs that are being conducted by their military. Like all warfare technology, hypersonic engines would need to be controlled and approved before widespread use. There is also the need to ensure that employing the technology will be an improvement in the overall system, and US officials continue to take this into consideration as they develop their prototypes.