China to build 30,000km/h wind tunnel to test hypersonic planes

China is planning to build a wind tunnel that is capable of developing wind speeds of 30,000km/h, more than 25 times the speed of sound and 10 times faster than the present record holder.

The tunnel would require up to a gigawatt of power to generate this speed, and would be used to test the aerodynamic properties of plane designs when subject to extreme stresses.

Han Guilai, a researcher with the State Key Laboratory of High Temperature Gas Dynamics, part of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, revealed the plan in an interview with China Central Television over the weekend.

The tunnel would be 265m long, and would be able to simulate the kind of wind speeds that would be encountered by a "hypersonic" plane – that is, one that travels at more than five times the speed of sound.

He said the current wind tunnels could simulate flights ranging from Mach 5 to Mach 9, and these have already been used to test a hypersonic plane design known as the "I Plane".

China’s latest research into hypersonic flight was published in the journal Science China in February. In theory, the I Plane could fly from Beijing to New York in two hours.

The tunnel could also be used to test a new generation of hypersonic missile that would be immune to anti-missile systems. Prototype have already been tested by the US and Australia.

A Nasa wind tunnel

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