The F-35 Joint Strike Fighter has exceeded Mach 1 for the first time–a timely achievement after a recent Rand study suggested that the design lacked maneuverability for air-to-air combat. Lockheed Martin said that the Lightning II accelerated to Mach 1.05 with a full internal load of inert weapons–5,400 pounds–on November 13. The design top speed is Mach 1.6. The Rand study on Air Combat discussed the potential performance of U.S.
Aerion, the U.S. company that is developing a supersonic business jet (SSBJ), has welcomed an FAA policy shift which it believes “seems to crack open the door for supersonic cruise speeds” if, in the words of FAA policy guidance released last month, “the noise impacts of supersonic flight are shown to be acceptable.”
Hopeful manufacturers of supersonic business jets–Aerion, Gulfstream and Supersonic Aerospace International–are encouraged by an updated FAA policy statement issued last week to align noise limits for future civil supersonic aircraft with current Stage 4 noise regulations.
Aerion executives still hope they will secure an OEM partner by the end of the year to build the company’s supersonic business jet, but vice chairman Brian Barents told NBAA Convention News that the company won’t “fall off a cliff” if the deadline passes without an announcement.
“Everybody talks about the weather,” Mark Twain once famously quipped, “but nobody ever does anything about it.”
At best, a total of 300 to 400 supersonic business jets (SSBJs) could be sold over the next 30 years, according to Andrei Ilyin, general director at Sukhoi Civil Aircraft. “The market is too small for competition,” he said.
Gulfstream has recruited company veteran Robert Cowart to be the new director of supersonic technology development. He most recently served as project engineer for the supersonic technology program. In his new position, Cowart is responsible for the development of advanced technology supporting quiet supersonic flight over land, with a principal focus on sonic boom suppression concepts.
It is almost five years since the Concorde retired, but little has been achieved in terms of replacing the world’s most iconic commercial aircraft.
Reno, Nev.-based Aerion is still hoping to convince an OEM partner to join it by the end of this year in its quest to build a supersonic business jet capable of sprinting from New York to London in just four hours. In the six months since the company began accepting orders for the Mach 1.6, $80 million twinjet, 40 would-be buyers have signed letters of intent backed by refundable deposits of $250,000.
Economical, practical, environmentally friendly supersonic flight is the next big thing in commercial aviation. Or is it? From where aeronautical technology stands today, practical supersonic flight (and by “practical,” we do not mean the Anglo-French Concorde, which generates noise and atmospheric pollution levels that preclude all but the smallest volumes of operation) is far off.