Russia Begins Wind Tunnel Testing on SSBJ

 - August 2, 2019, 10:10 AM
Russian manufacturer Tupolev, which developed the Tu-160 supersonic bomber (pictured here), is said to be working on a 30-passenger supersonic business jet that will fly in 2027. (Photo: Tupolev)

Russia is getting closer to developing its own supersonic business jet, including beginning tests in the supersonic wind tunnel at the Russian Khristianovich Institute of Theoretical and Applied Mechanics, according to recent statements of representatives of some leading domestic aviation bureaus and industry analysts.

Interfax Russia recently reported the main goal of these tests is evaluating parameters of a sonic boom in cruise-flight mode.

After the tests, Tupolev—which has developed the Tu-160 supersonic bomber and is the main designer of the new business jet—plans to create an electronic geometric model of the aircraft with the maximum allowable level of sonic boom.

In terms of its technical characteristics, the new business jet will be able to top Mach 1.5. Max takeoff weight is expected to be 70 tonnes (154,324 pounds). The cabin will accommodate up to 30 passengers. Due to its airframe configuration, aerodynamic characteristics will be optimized in all modes of flight, according to the information available.

Tupolev earlier this year said it expected a prototype of the aircraft to perform its first flight in 2027. The total cost of the project is estimated at RUB 120 billion ($2 billion U.S.).

Business aviation leaders and analysts in Russia see market potential but remain skeptical regarding the prospects of the new supersonic business jet.

“Unlike commercial aviation, where the prices of tickets are much more important than speed, the new aircraft could be of interest to business aviation customers, many of which are willing to pay more if it comes to a significant reduction in travel time, while keeping traditional advantages of business aviation,” Oleg Ivanov, corporate affairs director of A-Group Aero, a major FBO operator and ground handler at the Moscow Sheremetyevo and St. Petersburg’s Pulkovo airports, told AIN.

But Ivanov added, “The main problem, however, is related with engines that will be used on such aircraft. The questions of particular importance are resource and cost-effectiveness of these engines, as well as the possibility of their use on other aircraft.”

He pointed to similar projects ongoing in the U.S. and called the Aerion AS2 among the most promising. He further noted Boom Technology’s plans for a supersonic full-size business aircraft capable to reach speeds up to Mach 2.2.

In the meantime, Alexander Lanetsky, director Friendly Avia Support, a leading business aviation analyst and consulting company in Russia and the former Soviet region, considers the Tupolev project as promising. “The niche of supersonic business jets has been very attractive in recent years in Russia and abroad,” Lanetstky told to AIN. “As for Tupolev, this renowned design bureau had a serious experience and some real achievements in this field. They are, however, mostly dated from the 1960s and 70s, when it successfully completed the design of Tu-144 supersonic passenger aircraft, along with several military aircraft, based on supersonic technologies.” More recently Tupolev has primarily focused on the work with TU 204/214 modifications, he added.

Representatives of Tupolev were not available for comment.