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US military prototyping supersonic Air Force One

Concept art for Exosonic's "low-boom" supersonic airliner with Air Force One livery. (Exosonic/Released)
September 01, 2020

The U.S. Air Force is proceeding with the early stages of a plan to build a supersonic jet for the next iteration of Air Force One, the president’s executive airline.

Exosonic, a start-up aerospace design company, said in a press release Tuesday, that they have partnered with the U.S. Air Force’s Presidential and Executive Airlift Directorate to develop a supersonic executive transport.

Exosonic has emphasized its “low-boom” focus on developing supersonic aircraft capable of exceeding the speed of sound while avoiding the damaging sonic boom that is typical of most supersonic aircraft.

Exosonic CEO Norris Tie said, “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.”

The company is separately developing a 70-seat passenger aircraft capable of flying at Mach 1.8 speeds “supersonically overland and overwater with a muted sonic boom” and the company plans to have a prototype of that supersonic passenger jet ready by 2025. Exosonic’s press release stated the Air Force Research Lab is, at the same time, supporting the company’s efforts to modify its supersonic passenger jet “to serve as an executive transport vehicle.” reported the Air Force partnership with Exosonic consists of a  24-month, $1 million small business innovation research (SBIR) phase II contract to study prototypes for the future Air Force One. The Air Force Material Command told that the company will be tasked with determining the “power, weight, dimensions, communication systems, cabin layout” and a virtual reality model of the aircraft’s cabin space.

Brig. Gen. Britton, Program Executive Officer for the presidential and executive aircraft program, said, “The Presidential and Executive Airlift Directorate is extremely excited to team with Exosonic on our quest to transform the future of executive airlift. As always, we are proud to be leading the charge to deliver cutting-edge technology to the world. Transporting key decision-makers and teams around the world in half the time can be the difference between success and failure. Exosonic is a key player in getting us there. By teaming with industry, we are proving the United States Air Force can deliver technology leaps while maximizing return on taxpayer investment.” reported another company, Hermeus Corp, also received a $1.5 million contract to modify its own Mach 5-capable commercial aircraft prototype for use in the military’s VIP fleet.

The current Air Force One model is still awaiting its latest round of updates. The Presidential Aircraft Recapitalization awarded a contract to Boeing in 2016, to begin modifying the Boeing 747-8 airliners currently used in the Air Force One fleet.