The US military are testing a new hypersonic jet, called Waverider, which they hope will be able to reach Mach 6* – that’s 6 times the speed of sound, or 4,300mph.  To put it another way, that’s 61 times the legal speed limit on UK motorways.  A jet travelling at that speed could do London to New York in an hour.  Impressive.

Concorde, the supersonic jet, could only reach Mach 2.  Which, to be fair, is still impressive.

Concorde was first built in 1969.  That’s 43 years to go from Mach 2 to Mach 6.  Once they get commercial flights based on this new technology, it will take less time to get from London to New York than it does to get from Bristol to London on the train (assuming they don’t also invent faster trains).  How long will it take before we think about as much of crossing the Atlantic as we do of popping down the shops?

You may be wondering what all this has to do with Sonic the Hedgehog.

When we were children, my brother had a Game Gear (remember those?), and our very favourite game was Sonic.  I always preferred Tails, but that’s by-the-by.  One thing I remember is that when Sonic got going, he was fast.  Sometimes he would disappear off the screen before the sound of him collecting rings was heard, which suggests he was going faster than sound.

Therefore, I asked myself this question: is Sonic supersonic or hypersonic?  To answer this question I first needed to find out what the difference was.  Apparently, a hypersonic speed is one which is “highly supersonic“.  The exact speed seems to vary, depending on physical changes to the airflow around the craft, but is generally thought to be around Mach 5.

So how fast is Sonic?

I found this on Wiki Answers:

in sonic unleashed the checkpoints posts. also act as radars that clock Sonic’s speed when he passes them. which clocked his fastest speed of being able to go over 2,500 mph.

It is also stated in the Sonic Adventure DX manual that ”He’s the world’s fastest, hypersonic hedgehog” which is at a staggering speed of 3,840 mph.

It seems that Sonic has different speeds depending on which game you’re playing.  I couldn’t find a speed for the Game Gear that I remember playing, but I’m willing to bet it was slower than some of the more recent things.  And definitely slower than this:

in Sonic X he travels through time and space -under his own power.

So it seems Sonic has no top speed; he’s definitely hypersonic, and in some incarnations he can be FTL!  That new military jet doesn’t seem so impressive now, does it?


* UPDATE: I wrote this a couple of days ago.  They’ve done the test now, and there were a couple of small issues – with things like the aircraft crashing before it’s engines fired up.  Not so great.