A hypersonic Air Force One with a new kind of engine that can reach Mach 5? Sounds like SciFi, right? But a contract has already been awarded to Hermeus, a “start up” company that claims it will be able to accomplish the feat.
The hypersonic Air Force One is about 10 years away, but Hermeus already has a contract with the Air Force and the Presidential and Executive Airlift Directorate to produce the aircraft.
In a nine month span, the Hermeus company claims it created the Mach 5 engine. Their goal is to create commercial aircraft that can fly from New York to London in 90 minutes instead of 7 hours.
Business Insider reported,
Hermeus plans to build a demonstrator vehicle over the next five years, with commercial aircraft envisioned in about a decade, Skyler Shuford, its cofounder and chief operating officer, said in 2019. A press release announcing the Air Force contract said part of the project would focus on integrating Air Force requirements into the airplane’s designs.
Hermeus emerged last year, announcing plans to develop a Mach 5 aircraft that could fly from New York to Paris in about 90 minutes. Ars Technica reported in May 2019 that the company raised an initial round of funding, led by Khosla Ventures, which it used to develop the prototype. Hermeus said it would use a turbine-based combined-cycle engine for the propulsion system, according to the report.
The company’s cofounders are alumni of SpaceX, Blue Origin, and the aerospace company Generation Orbit.
Speeds of over 3000 miles per hour have unique difficulties to overcome. The SR-71 (Blackbird) was the fastest plane ever built at Mach 3 and had to deal with heat, airflow, and other major factors. The Concorde, the French/British supersonic airline only few a few times before it was retired in 2003 after a crash. It flew at Mach 2.1 or slightly over 1300 mph. Unlike the X-15, which was a rocket engine designed to be “drop-launched” from another plane – it could fly at Mach 4,5,6.
This hypersonic Air Force One plane is reportedly created out of turbine-based technology rather than a rocket. The company says it has raised the funds for this project from Khosla Ventures, but did not give an amount. Boom Supersonic, another company, is planning to build a fleet of faster than sound aircraft that would travel at Mach 2.2, slightly more than the Concorde. (ArsTechnica)
It seems a little too good to be true, but the Air Force and White House granted Hermeus a contract. The planes are set to carry 20 passengers when completed. Mach 5 is an extreme speed with many dangers and pitfalls. Flying at that speed might be hazardous to a beverage service too. Just sayin’.
Featured photo: screenshot of artist’s conception of the Hypersonic Air Force One via Business Insider