Supersonic Business Passenger Jet Zooming in Over the Horizon

The Aerion AS2 is a supersonic business jet under development by Aerion Corporation. In May 2014, it was announced that the Aerion AS2 would be part of a larger Aerion SBJ redesign, which aimed for release after a seven-year developmental period. Aerion partnered with Airbus in September the same year. In December 2017, Airbus was replaced by Lockheed Martin. Its General Electric Affinity engine was unveiled in October 2018. In February 2019, Boeing replaced Lockheed Martin.

The Aerion AS2 12-passenger aircraft aims for Mach 1.6 with a supersonic natural laminar flow wing for a minimum projected range of 4,750 nm (8,800 km). A $4 billion development cost is anticipated, for a market of 300 over 10 years and 500 overall for $120 million each.

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In December 2017, Aerion and Lockheed Martin announced that they would explore its joint development without Airbus, aiming to fly in 2023 and be certificated in 2025. On December 15, after discussions with Lockheed’s Skunk Works, they announced a MoU to explore over a year the joint development of the supersonic business jet: engineering, certification and production. Lockheed previously developed supersonic aircraft like the F-16, the F-35, F-22, and the Mach 3+ SR-71, and they concluded that the AS2 concept warranted time and resource investment after reviewing Aerion’s aerodynamic technology. Throughout the two-and-a-half-year engineering collaboration with Airbus, Aerion advanced the AS2 aerodynamics and designed preliminary wing and airframe structures, a systems layout, and a fly-by-wire control system concept. Between May and December 2017, the GE collaboration resulted in moving the engines from the trailing edge to the wing leading edge, featuring a T-tail, and a higher wing aspect ratio.

Aerion said it is spending $1 billion for the AS2. Aerion and Lockheed wanted to freeze its engines, wings, and fuselage configuration in summer 2018, with the goal of selling 30 jets per year for $3.6 billion over 20 years.

 

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While military jets have had supersonic capabilities for decades, the economics are daunting for civilian operations. High ticket prices helped do in the Concorde after 27 years of service, which slurped twice as much fuel as a Boeing Co. jumbo jet while carrying only one-fourth as many passengers.

In the years since Air France and British Airways parked their Concordes, would-be supersonic jet developers have turned to business aircraft in hopes of putting newer technology in a smaller airframe to attract wealthy buyers and globe-trotting chief executive officers.

 

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