Supersonic business jet company Aerion and Lockheed Martin announced a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) today to define a formal and gated process to explore the feasibility of a joint development of the world’s first supersonic business jet, the Aerion AS2. Over the next 12 months, the companies will work together to develop a framework on all phases of the program, including engineering, certification and production.
Lockheed Martin, known for developing the world’s leading supersonic combat aircraft, the F-16, the F-35, and F-22, as well as the Mach 3+ SR-71 reconnaissance aircraft, is committed to fostering new innovations and developing supersonic technologies with civil and commercial applications.
Aerion was formed in 2003 to introduce a new era of practical and efficient supersonic flight. Over more than a decade, Aerion has developed and demonstrated advanced wing technology in conjunction with NASA and other leading aeronautical institutions. This research includes breakthrough work in supersonic natural laminar flow, the key enabling technology behind the AS2 business jet.
The 12-passenger AS2 is expected to fly at a maximum speed of Mach 1.4 over water, and, where permitted by regulation, at speeds approaching Mach 1.2 without a sonic boom reaching the ground. Thanks to its unique supersonic natural laminar flow wing, the aircraft is expected to achieve long range (LA to Paris) and efficiency at supersonic and subsonic speeds. Once fielded, it will reduce trans-Atlantic trips by as much as three hours, enabling business leaders to fly roundtrip between New York and London in a day.
The traditional solution for supersonic flight has been a delta wing shape. Spanwise airflow across the delta wing trips the boundary layer (the air flowing closest to the surface), causing turbulent airflow, which increases drag.
Aerion’s thin wing and horizontal stabilizer, with moderately swept leading edges, reduce spanwise flow, allowing for laminar flow on these surfaces. Friction (viscous) drag over the wing is reduced by about 70 percent. When the wing and tail are integrated with an optimized airframe, net friction drag reduction is up to 20 percent which, in aeronautical terms, is a huge leap in efficiency.
In November 2015, Aerion announced a fleet order from fractional aircraft fleet operator Flexjet for 20 AS2 aircraft. Aerion expects the AS2’s first flight in 2023 and certification in 2025.