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A method for inspecting a structural sample using ultrasonic energy includes positioning an ultrasonic transducer adjacent to a surface of the sample, and then transmitting ultrasonic energy into the sample. Force pulses are applied to the transducer concurrently with transmission of the ultrasonic energy. A host machine processes ultrasonic return pulses from an ultrasonic pulser/receiver to quantify attenuation of the ultrasonic energy within the sample. The host machine detects a defect in the sample using the quantified level of attenuation. The method may include positioning a dry couplant between an ultrasonic transducer and the surface. A system includes an actuator, an ultrasonic transducer, a dry couplant between the transducer the sample, a scanning device that moves the actuator and transducer, and a measurement system having a pulsed actuator power supply, an ultrasonic pulser/receiver, and a host machine that executes the above method.