The US Air Force will be flying operational prototypes of hypersonic weapons by 2020. At least that’s according to Major General Thomas Masiello, commander of the Air Force Research Laboratory, who spoke last Friday at the Air Force Association Air Warfare Symposium in Orlando, Florida.

This may mean that hypersonics are just about through what engineers and program managers call the “Valley of Death,” which is a sort of Catch-22 where a lot of good ideas languish and die.

Taking any idea from the drawing board to operational deployment is expensive.

There’s one phase where that development starts getting really expensive, but it’s before anyone has enough confidence in the new idea that they’re will to lay out enough money to make that technology usable in practical terms.