Apple has secured a massive installation of 1,566 Xserve G5s for use by the US military.

COLSA Corporation yesterday announced the purchase of the dual processor Xserve G5s which it is going to use to build "a new supercomputer that is expected to be one of the fastest in the world." The machine will be called MACH 5 (Multiple Advanced Computers for Hypersonic).

The move reflects that by Virginia Tech (System X), which built its affordable G5-based supercomputer last year, and confirms a series of rumours that have circulated about this project on the Internet.

COLSA Corp said: "MACH 5 is a breakthrough in price performance for high performance computing. It is expected to deliver a peak performance capability of more than 25TFlops/second at a cost of $5.8 million and will be used to model the complex aero-thermodynamics of hypersonic flight for the US Army."

Company executive vice president Dr Anthony DiRienzo said: "We expect MACH 5 to rank as one of the most powerful supercomputers on the planet. According to the November 2003 Top 500 supercomputer list, it would rank second only to Japan's $350 million Earth Simulator computer at less than two per cent of the cost. We evaluated PC-based proposals from other vendors but none came close to delivering either the price, performance or manageability of the Apple Xserve G5."

Apple senior vice president of worldwide product marketing Phil Schiller said: "Apple is honoured that COLSA chose the Xserve G5 to build its supercomputer cluster.

"The ground breaking 64-bit performance and incredible I/O capabilities of the Xserve G5, combined with the reliability and scalability of our Unix-based Mac OS X Server software deliver high-performance computing solutions perfect for anyone looking to cluster from two to thousands of nodes, at an unbeatable price," he said.

Alex Grossman, director of server and storage hardware at Apple, said: "We have a lot more customers to come that will be on the Top 500 list."

These successes are attributable to Apple's decision to use PowerPC 970 processors, Illuminata analyst Gordon Haff told Cnet: "The software and management features of Mac OS X are factors, but certainly performance of the processor is an enormous factor. The PowerPC is a fast processor."

The Xserve G5 supercluster system is expected to be online and working for the Aviation and Missile Research, Development and Engineering Center (AMRDEC) division of the US Army Research and Development Command by late autumn.

The new centre will be used by both the US Army and NASA in research and development.