USAF Issues Contracts for Supersonic Air Force One

 - September 4, 2020, 12:56 PM
Exosonic and Hermeus have recently won USAF Presidential and Executive Airlift Directorate contracts to develop supersonic and hypersonic aircraft, respectively, as potential transports for the President and other top U.S. leaders. Hermeus is working on this Mach 5, 20-passenger aircraft that could shorten the trip from New York to London to 90 minutes. (Photo: Hermeus)

Exosonic and Hermeus—relatively unknown developers of faster-than-the-speed-of-sound passenger aircraft—as well as Boom Supersonic, were recently awarded separate contracts by the U.S. Air Force’s Presidential and Executive Airlift Directorate to develop executive transports that could be used as Air Force One. Boom and Exosonic are both working on supersonic airliners, while Hermeus is developing a smaller, 20-seat hypersonic airplane.

The $1 million contract awarded to Exosonic, which was announced in early September, is for the company’s low-boom, Mach 1.8 twinjet that would fly U.S. leaders up to 5,000-nm nonstop, allowing them to more quickly meet with world leaders or react to developing situations. In airline configuration, the supersonic jet would be able to seat up to 70 people.

Boom Supersonic, which is nearing completion of its XB-1 scale model supersonic demonstrator, was given a similar contract. The Denver-based company ultimately plans to build and certify Overture, a 45-seat Mach 2.2 airliner. "Overture offers the Air Force a unique combination of passenger capacity, speed, and enough space and power to accommodate the requirements of necessary mission systems. Plus, the aircraft can be configured for multiple cabin zones, affording a layout with as much privacy as necessary," the company said. "Overture could also become part of the Civil Reserve Air Fleet (CRAF), enabling humanitarian and other critical airlifts in half the time."

Meanwhile, Hermeus’s USAF award granted earlier this month for its Mach 5 airplane comes under an “other transaction for prototype agreement direct to Phase II contract” after the company successfully tested a hypersonic engine prototype in February. The company said it has taken an “off-the-shelf gas turbine engine and operated it at flight speed conditions faster than the famed SR-71.” Though performance and specification data for its Mach 5 jet are scant, it claimed the aircraft will be able to fly from New York to London in about 90 minutes.

Boom plans to fly Overture in 2025, with certification and service entry expected in 2027. Exosonic and Hermeus have not yet provided development timelines for their faster-than-sound airplanes.