LOS ANGELES -- The U.S. Air Force plans to launch an experimental aircraft Thursday that could potentially reach speeds of 4,000 mph over the Pacific Ocean in a test flight that could give the Pentagon a new way to deliver a military strike anywhere around the globe within minutes.
Built in Southern California, the unmanned X-51 WaveRider is being developed to deliver powerful warheads at tremendously high speeds with pinpoint accuracy almost anywhere on Earth.
Military officials say the need for the technology became clear in 1998 when the U.S. military tried -- and failed -- to kill Osama bin Laden. While positioned in the Arabian Sea, Navy vessels lobbed cruise missiles at training camps in Afghanistan, hitting their targets -- 80 minutes later. By then, bin Laden was gone.