HyperMach Aerospace, a U.K. company with ambitious plans to develop a $180 million supersonic business jet, released revised performance figures at this week’s Dubai Airshow, announcing that the SSBJ will be capable of flying at Mach 4.0. That’s a marked increase from the Mach 3.6 top speed provided when the company launched the project over the summer. At the new top speed, HyperMach’s SonicStar would be capable of traveling from New York to Dubai in 2 hours 20 minutes. And, with a range of 6,000 nautical miles, it could easily make the trip nonstop. What’s more, the speedy airplane would have space inside to accommodate 20 passengers.
HyperMach isn’t the first would-be manufacturer to step forward with bold ideas for a future SSBJ, but none have been so audacious as to put forth claims of a craft capable of traveling at more than 2,600 miles per hour. Aerion, the supersonic research firm created by billionaire Robert Bass, says its SSBJ would cruise at Mach 1.6 over water, and perhaps as fast as Mach 1.1 over land with no sonic boom. HyperMach believes its SSBJ will produce no or minimal sonic boom even at Mach 4.
Curiously, however, HyperMach’s SonicStar isn’t really a “hypersonic” aircraft, a term generally reserved for those which are capable of flying above Mach 5. Darpa’s Falcon Hypersonic Technology Vehicle 2, which broke up and crashed over the Pacific Ocean on Aug. 11, is designed to fly at Mach 20.
How can HyperMach possibly make such remarkable claims? Company founder Richard Lugg says data analysis has shown that the higher speed can be achieved thanks to a higher thrust-to-weight-ratio engine and an aerodynamically intriguing “electromagnetically induced plasma wave” that will “absorb” sonic-boom-causing pressure waves. The enabling technology is the new H-Magjet 4000-X series engine under development by Portland, Maine-based SonicBlue, of which Lugg is also the chairman. That company has also put forth ideas for stealthy, VTOL supersonic UAVs for military use, though none have yet been produced.
First flight of the SonicStar is planned for 2021, with certification to follow by 2025.