Pentagon asks firm to draw up plans for new supersonic Air Force One

Pentagon asks firm to draw up plans for new supersonic Air Force One

A supersonic Air Force One? Pentagon commissions plans for new presidential jet that could fly at TWICE the speed of sound

  • Exosonic, an aerospace start-up, was awarded $1million contract by Pentagon 
  • Firm is tasked with drawing up plans for prototype of supersonic Air Force One 
  • Exosonic is working on developing 70-passenger Mach 1.8 ‘low boom’ aircraft  
  • Prototype for new Air Force One would likely be rolled out sometime in 2025 
  • Current Air Force One is capable of reaching speeds of up to 640mph 

The Pentagon has commissioned a prototype of a new supersonic Air Force One that could one day ferry the president around the world at nearly twice the speed and half the time currently required to travel.

The Air Force has awarded a 24-month, $1million contract to Exosonic, a start-up aerospace company that is developing a 70-seat, passenger aircraft that can fly at Mach 1.8 speeds ‘supersonically overland and overwater with a muted sonic boom,’ according to the firm’s website.

The contract was announced on Monday by the Air Force’s Presidential and Executive Airlift Directorate.

An aircraft that can fly at Mach 1.8 could theoretically reach speeds of 1,380mph. 

Exosonic will be tasked with reimagining a new presidential plane that will need to factor in variables including ‘power, weight, dimensions, communication systems, and cabin layout,’ Air Force Materiel Command told Military.com.

The above image shows a rendering of what a future supersonic version of Air Force One could look like

The Air Force awarded a 24-month, $1million contract to Exosonic, a start-up aerospace company that is developing a 70-seat, passenger aircraft that can fly at Mach 1.8 speeds ‘supersonically overland and overwater with a muted sonic boom,’ according to the firm’s website

Air Force One, the highly customized Boeing 747-200B series aircraft described as a three-level ‘flying Oval Office,’ is currently one of the fastest planes in the world. It can travel at a top speed of 600mph, which is almost the speed of sound

‘Low-boom allows travelers to fly at supersonic speeds without generating disruptive booms for those on the ground,’ said AFMC spokesman Daryl Mayer.

‘Exosonic’s aircraft can provide top US leaders and diplomats rapid transportation around the world to meet with world leaders or react to developing situations on the ground,’ the company said.

‘By utilizing Exosonic’s boom softening techniques, the passengers can travel overland and overwater at supersonic speeds, pending regulations, to roughly reduce their cruise times in half compared to existing aircraft.’

‘The future for global rapid passenger travel is low-boom supersonic flight. Low boom allows travelers to fly at supersonic speeds without generating disruptive booms for those on the ground,’ said Exosonic CEO Norris Tie.

‘Exosonic is excited to win this contract as it represents not only commercial but government promise for low-boom supersonic travel.’

Air Force One, the highly customized Boeing 747-200B series aircraft described as a three-level ‘flying Oval Office,’ is currently one of the fastest planes in the world. It can travel at a top speed of 600mph, which is almost the speed of sound.

Several other firms are also working on bringing back supersonic travel after the demise of the Franco-British supersonic airliner Concorde. In July 2000, an Air France Concorde crashed just after takeoff from Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport, killing all 109 on board and four people on the ground. The above image shows an Air France Concorde in 1988

During flight, Air Force One is capable of reaching a maximum altitude of 45,100 ft. 

By comparison, a commercial airliner usually reaches about 30,000ft.

It is built to support the weight of up to 70 passengers as well as living quarters for the president, his senior advisers, Secret Service officers, reporters, and guests.

The current version of the plane also holds 4,000sq ft of space which includes a conference room, offices, and top-of-the-line electronics that enables the president to work in-flight. 

Air Force One also holds two galleys for food preparation, a doctor on board every flight, and a medical operating room.

There are currently two Air Force One planes in service today. The aircraft carries the tail codes 28000 and 29000.

MEET THE NEW AIR FORCE ONE – THE FASTEST AND BIGGEST BOEING 747 EVER

Artist’s impression: Boeing says the new Air Force Ones, which will be based on its 747-8 series, could look like this

Two Boeing 747-8s will be modified to replace the existing fleet of presidential 747-200s, which are designated VC-25A by the Air Force.

The Trump Force One planes are expected to enter service by 2024 and will be designated VC-25B. Here is how the old and new compare.

Wingspan

Boeing 747-200: 95ft 8in

747-8: 224ft 5in 

Length

747-200: 31ft 10in

747-8: 205ft 2in 

Top speed

747-200: 0.85 Mach – 644.5 miles per hour

787-8:  0.855 Mach – 656.0 miles per hour

Range

747-200: 6,375 nautical miles – equivalent of Washington D.C. to Tokyo 

757-8: 7,730 nautical miles – equivalent of Washington D.C. to Hong Kong 

Maximum load at take-off

747-200: 833,000lb  – 427.5 tons

747-8: 987,000lb – 493.5 tons

On board facilites

Travel in style: President Obama in the 747-200’s conference / dining room

747-200: In-flight refueling; self-contained baggage loader; two galleys providing 100 meals in one sitting; capacity for 3,000 frozen meals held in five chillers; conference / executive dining room; self-contained office for president; sitting area which converts into bedroom for president and first lady; on-board hospital; offices for staff; crew rest area; business-class style cabin for reporters.

747-8: Specifications still to be released but extra floor area – the top deck is more than twice as long as on a 747-200 – will mean more space for conference and rest areas. 747-8s can allow extra rest areas above the passenger floor at the rear called the ‘crown’.

Service history

747-200: Commissioned by Ronald Reagan,  entered service 1990 and have carried presidents George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, Barack Obama and Donald Trump. They will fly the winner of the 2020 election.

Obama on board: The 44th president was one of five who have flown on the 747-200s. If Trump loses in 2020, that number will climb to six

Personal space: Laura Bush and her husband President George W. Bush in the president and first lady’s quarters

747-8: Need for new presidential planes first put in writing in 2009, with three requested. Airbus A380s were also considered but their manufacturer dropped out of consideration. Latest order is due to be delivered  in 2024 – meaning if Trump wins a second term he might be able to fly in them before he leaves office.

Who else has got one

747-200: No other known VIP 747-200s exist. No 747-200s remain in scheduled commercial passenger service

747-8: Current owners of VIP 747-8s are believed to include: Qatar, four, one reserved for the emir; Kuwait, one; Sultan of Oman, one; Sultan of Brunei, one; Morocco for use by its king, one; United Arab Emirates, seven; Hong Kong real estate tycoon Joseph Lau

 

The current planes were purchased when Ronald Reagan was president. They were first introduced into service during the administration of Reagan’s successor, George H.W. Bush. 

Several years ago, Boeing decided to shut down production of the 747-200 series. Thus it became diffficult to replace the aircraft’s parts.

During Barack Obama’s second term in office, he ordered a replacement fleet be built that would be modeled on the new 747-8 series. 

In July 2018, Boeing received a $3.9billion contract to build two 747-8 aircraft for use as Air Force One by the president, due to be delivered by December 2024 and painted red, white and blue.

The Boeing 747-8s are designed to be an airborne White House able to fly in worst-case security scenarios, such as nuclear war, and are modified with military avionics, advanced communications and a self-defense system.

Last month, the Air Force reached a deal to fund the development of a hypersonic plane that could one day be used to carry top government officials in the executive branch.

The contract, announced by aerospace firm Hermeus on August 6, will fund the development of a small passenger jet that could replace the Gulfstream-based planes currently in the presidential fleet.

Though the current aircraft under consideration would be too small to replace Air Force One, it could conceivably someday be used to transport Cabinet members, Congressional delegations, and other officials whose transport is overseen by the Special Air Mission.

Concept art from aerospace firm Hermeus shows a planned Mach 5 passenger jet. The Air Force is working with the firm to develop technology for the presidential fleet

The defense contract comes after Hermeus successfully tested a Mach 5 engine prototype (Above) in February 2020

The Air Force investment, awarded through AFWERX, is worth $1.5 million and will be used to evaluate potential hypersonic military transports for an aircraft seating nine to 19 people, according to Aviation Week Defense Editor Steve Trimble.

At Mach 5, which is over 3000mph, flight times from New York to London would be 90 minutes rather than seven hours. 

‘Leaps in capability are vital as we work to complicate the calculus of our adversaries,’ said Brigadier General Ryan Britton, Program Executive Officer for Presidential and Executive Airlift in a statement on the program.

‘By leveraging commercial investment to drive new technologies into the Air Force, we are able to maximize our payback on Department of Defense investments,’ he continued.

‘The Presidential and Executive Airlift Directorate is proud to support Hermeus in making this game-changing capability a reality as we look to recapitalize the fleet in the future.’ 

The defense contract comes after Hermeus successfully tested a Mach 5 engine prototype in February 2020.

The engine uses a turbine-based combined cycle propulsion that can take off and land like a normal plane, but then be switched into ramjet mode for the middle portion of flight to achieve hypersonic speed.

‘Using our pre-cooler technology, we’ve taken an off-the-shelf gas turbine engine and operated it at flight speed conditions faster than the famed SR-71,’ said Glenn Case, Hermeus’ CTO.

The hypersonic plane could eventually replace the Gulfstream-based planes in the Special Air Mission that are used to ferry Cabinet members and Congressional delegations 

Hermeus’ engine (above) uses a turbine-based combined cycle propulsion that can take off and land like a normal plane, but then be switched into ramjet mode

‘In addition, we’ve pushed the ramjet mode to Mach 4-5 conditions, demonstrating full-range hypersonic air-breathing propulsion capability,’ he said.

The current Air Force One fleet used for presidential transport consists of two heavily modified Boeing 747s, using the military designation VC-25.

Two new aircraft, designated VC-25B and based on the Boeing 747-8, have been ordered by the Air Force and are due to be delivered by 2024.

Several other firms are also working on bringing back supersonic travel after the demise of the Franco-British supersonic airliner Concorde.

In July 2000, an Air France Concorde crashed just after takeoff from Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport, killing all 109 on board and four people on the ground.

The crash, the aftermath of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, and the rising cost of maintaining the aircraft, which could reach more than twice the speed of sound, led to the service being suspended for good in 2003.

NASA is currently working on a supersonic plane shaped like a pencil which doesn’t have a front-facing window for the pilot to look out of.

NASA is currently working on a supersonic plane shaped like a pencil which doesn’t have a front-facing window for the pilot to look out of (pictured). Known formally as the X-59 Quiet Supersonic Transport (QueSST), it has garnered the nickname ‘Son of Concorde’

The pilot’s lack of a window will be solved by the installation of a 4K ultra high resolution TV (artist’s impression, pictured) screen showing a live feed from two cameras mounted on the front of the plane 

WHAT IS NASA’S ‘SON OF CONCORDE’ X-PLANE?

Nasa is developing a 1,100mph (1,770kph) aircraft that has been dubbed the ‘son of Concorde’.

The vehicle is the first in a series of aircraft Nasa is developing with Lockheed Martin in a quest to build a commercially viable supersonic jet.

It is designed to fly at Mach 1.4 (925 mph / 1,488 kph) at an altitude of 55,000 feet (10 miles).

Dubbed the X-59 Quiet Supersonic Transport (QueSST), the research craft aims to cut out the sonic booms associated with supersonic travel.

Pictured is an artist’s impression of the Quiet Supersonic Transport (QueSST) low-boom flight demonstrator (LBFD)

The aircraft is shaped to separate the shocks and expansions associated with supersonic flight to reduce the volume of the shaped signature, and was developed by Lockheed’s Skunk Works over 20 years.

The team is hoping to achieve a sonic boom 60 dBA lower than other supersonic aircraft, such as Concorde.

Recent research has shown it is possible for a supersonic airplane to be shaped in such a way that the shock waves it forms when flying faster than the speed of sound can generate a sound at ground level so quiet it will hardly will be noticed by the public, if at all.

This seemingly flawed concept will be mitigated by the installation of a 4K ultra high resolution TV screen showing a live feed from two cameras mounted on the front of the plane.

The system is called the eXternal Visibility System (XVS) and will combine terrain data and visual input to create a comprehensive image of the plane’s location.

Known formally as the X-59 Quiet Supersonic Transport (QueSST), it has garnered the nickname ‘son of concord’ and could be ready for test fights by 2021 and could one day fly from London to New York in just three hours.

Last month, Virgin Galactic unveiled the design for its supersonic jet.

Virgin Galactic recently revealed its design of a sleek airplane capable of shuttling nine to 19 passengers while traveling at speeds of Mach 3 – three times faster than the speed of sound

The sleek plane is capable of shuttling up to 19 passengers, while traveling at speeds of Mach 3 – three times faster than the speed of sound.

The images show a plane with a triangular ‘delta wing’ that will fly at an altitude of more than 60,000 feet, which is twice as high as a traditional commercial airplane.

Virgin Galactic first revealed its plans for a supersonic jet earlier this year by announcing a partnership with NASA.

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