Supersonic transport research carried out within the European Commission’s 6th Research Framework Program has received attention since Italian manufacturer Alenia and Russian manufacturer Sukhoi signed a coop- erative agreement.
The agreement, which was signed in Moscow in June, is an important step in the establishment of a long-term strategic partnership between the two companies and the most significant industrial program yet involving the Italian and Russian civil aviation sectors.
Although this agreement focuses primarily on the Superjet 100 (née RRJ), Alenia Aeronautica CEO Giovanni Bertolone and Sukhoi general director Mikhail Pogosian made no secret that building a supersonic business jet (SSBJ) is their next target.
Sukhoi has been working on a supersonic business jet project for many years. At the end of the 1980s the company was involved with Gulfstream and Rolls-Royce on a supersonic project codenamed S-21, which was shelved for lack of market enthusiasm.
Both Alenia and Sukhoi are also involved in the high-speed aircraft project in which Dassault Aviation also plays a key role. The main objective of this project is to establish the technical feasibility of “an environmentally compliant supersonic small size transport aircraft,” taking into account the need to reduce the sonic boom to a level that would allow the aircraft to fly over land at supersonic speeds.
The four-year project is led by Dassault Aviation and involves 37 partners from 13 countries. It was officially launched in May last year with a total budget of $33 million (€26 million), of which the EU is contributing $17.8 million (€14 million).
Three teams are studying three different configurations to compare methods and results. The aircraft configurations are a “low noise” concept (under Dassault leadership); a “high range” concept (under Alenia leadership); and a “low boom” concept (under Sukhoi leadership).
The three SSBJ designs are based upon a common set of requirements that include a supersonic cruise speed of between Mach 1.4 and 1.8, range between 3,000 and 5,000 nm with eight passengers, floor area at least equaling that of a Falcon 50, maximum landing weight between 70 percent and 95 percent of mtow, approach speed of between 120 and 140 knots and maximum balanced field length between 5,500 and 6,500 feet. In addition, it must be able to achieve desirable environmental constraints related to noise, emissions and sonic boom signature.
Two other EU research projects are linked to supersonic transport activities. One studies “advanced air-breathing engines” while the other is examining laminar-flow techniques.
A source close to Dassault says an SSBJ launch is possible in 2015. This would be a major international program since Dassault also has long-established ties with Boeing on supersonic transport research.
Preliminary Technical Specs of an SSBJ
• Noise: ICAO Chapter 4 less 10dB
• NOx emissions at high altitude: less than 5g per kg of fuel burned
• NOx emissions at landing and takeoff: comparable to subsonic aircraft
• Sonic boom: less than 15 Pa differential pressure
• Cabin: size 8 to 16 passengers
• Speed: transonic to Mach 1.8
• Range: 3,240 nm to 4,860 nm