The U.S. Air Force Life Cycle Management Center (AFLCMC) on Oct. 16 announced its newest collaboration with Denver-based Boom Supersonic to explore the development of the next generation of transport for federal executives.
“Supersonic travel cuts flight times in half and makes it possible for our American diplomats and executive leaders to connect more frequently in person with greater access to foreign leaders, quicker responses to emerging crises and more frequent attention to diplomatic missions,” Air Force Brig. Gen. Ryan Britton, the program executive officer for the Presidential and Executive Airlift Directorate, said in a video while standing next to the Bell [TXT] X-1B. The latter, on display at the National Museum of the United States Air Force at Wright Patterson AFB, Ohio, was a successor to the Bell X-1, which broke the sound barrier in 1947 with Chuck Yeager at the helm.
The Air Force and space leaders used the X-1B, released from a mothership at 25,000 to 30,000 feet, to investigate supersonic flight problems during the demonstrator’s flights from 1954 to 1958.
“Boom is the perfect example of the American ingenuity that drives the economy forward through technological advances and also opens up the potential for a new generation of military executive aircraft ahead of our competitors on a much faster timeline,” John Slye, the deputy PEO of the Presidential and Executive Airlift Directorate, said in the Oct. 16 video.
In an eye catching historical juxtaposition, Boom unveiled its one-third scale XB-1 supersonic demonstrator for the Air Force on Oct. 7. The single seat, delta-wing XB-1 features a 71-foot-long fuselage “optimally shaped for high-speed aerodynamic efficiency,” a carbon-composite airframe, a forward vision system that benefits from a high-resolution video camera and cockpit display “to give pilots a virtual window through the nose, providing superior runway visibility,” and three General Electric [GE] J85-15 engines with more than 12,000 pounds of thrust, Boom said.
The XB-1 is to fly at Mach 2.2 and to be a predecessor to Boom’s Overture supersonic commercial airliner, which is to cost $200 million.
“After rollout, XB-1 will complete its ongoing, extensive ground test program before heading to Mojave, California, in 2021 for flight test,” Boom said. “At the same time, the company will finalize Overture’s propulsion system and conduct wind tunnel tests to validate aircraft design. When XB-1 breaks the sound barrier in flight, Boom will be finalizing the design of Overture, whose own rollout is on track for 2025.”
AFWERX is also examining the possibility of hypersonic executive transport. AFWERX recently awarded Atlanta-based Hermeus Corp. a $1.5 million Phase 2 prototyping contract to develop its Mach 5 engine prototype, tested in February, and aircraft design (Defense Daily, Aug. 6).
Other companies are also in the mix, as the Air Force examines whether to move forward on supersonic/hypersonic successors to the current Air Force One.
Last month, the Air Force Research Laboratory awarded California-based start-up Exosonic a contract to develop a “low-boom,” or muted boom, supersonic executive transport.
Exosonic wants to build a Mach 1.8, 5000 nautical mile range, 70-passenger supersonic airliner to fly overland with a muted boom.
Nevada-based Aerion aims to deliver 12-passenger business jets that fly at Mach 1.4 by 2023.
In addition, commercial spaceflight company Virgin Galactic has said that it will work with Rolls-Royce on a 9-19 passenger business jet capable of Mach 3 flight.
The Air Force is to receive the first of two, new Air Force Ones, VC-25Bs, a version of the 747-8 airliner, next year.