Russia is getting closer to developing its own supersonic business jet, AINonline reported.
The state-of-the-art Russian jet is beginning tests in the supersonic wind tunnel at the Russian Khristianovich Institute of Theoretical and Applied Mechanics, according to industry analysts and media outlets.
Interfax Russia recently reported the main goal of these tests is evaluating parameters of a sonic boom in cruise-flight mode.
After the tests, Tupolev — which has developed the “White Swan” Tu-160 supersonic bomber and is the main designer of the new business jet — plans to create an electronic geometric model of the aircraft with maximum allowable levels of sonic boom.
In terms of its technical characteristics, the new business jet will be able to top Mach 1.5. Max takeoff weight is expected to be 70 tons (154,324 pounds). The cabin will accommodate up to 30 passengers.
Due to its airframe configuration, aerodynamic characteristics will be optimized in all modes of flight, according to the information available.
Tupolev earlier this year said it expected a prototype of the aircraft to perform its first flight in 2027. The total cost of the project is estimated at RUB 120 billion (US$2 billion).
Business aviation leaders and analysts in Russia see market potential but remain skeptical regarding the prospects of the new supersonic business jet, the report said. Even Russian President Vladimir Putin backed the enterprise, suggesting that Russia’s current economy would support the development and operation of a supersonic passenger aircraft.
“We now need to go back to supersonic passenger travel. We should think about it,” said Putin.
According to NASA, the secret to “quiet” supersonic travel was first theorized in the 1960s.
It all has to do with the unique shape of the aircraft hull. In a conventional aircraft, shockwaves coalesce as they expand away from the nose and tail, resulting in two distinct and thunderous sonic booms.
In newly designed supersonic aircraft, the shockwaves are sent away from the aircraft, in a way that prevents them from coming together in two loud booms. The result is much weaker shockwaves, and, perhaps a quick series of soft thumps heard on the ground, if it all.
“Unlike commercial aviation, where the prices of tickets are much more important than speed, the new aircraft could be of interest to business aviation customers, many of which are willing to pay more if it comes to a significant reduction in travel time, while keeping traditional advantages of business aviation,” said Oleg Ivanov, corporate affairs director of A-Group Aero, a major FBO operator and ground handler at the Moscow Sheremetyevo and St. Petersburg’s Pulkovo airports.
But Ivanov added, “The main problem, however, is related with engines that will be used on such aircraft. The questions of particular importance are resource and cost-effectiveness of these engines, as well as the possibility of their use on other aircraft.”
He pointed to similar projects ongoing in the U.S. and called the Aerion AS2 among the most promising. He further noted Boom Technology’s plans for a supersonic full-size business aircraft capable of reaching speeds up to Mach 2.2.
Asia Times reported last year that Ctrip, one of China’s leading online travel sites, along with Virgin Galactic and Japan Airlines have both invested in the Boom Technology project.
In the meantime, Alexander Lanetsky, director of Friendly Avia Support, a leading business aviation analyst and consulting company in Russia and the former Soviet region, considers the Tupolev project as promising.
“The niche of supersonic business jets has been very attractive in recent years in Russia and abroad,” Lanetstky told AINonline.
“This renowned design bureau has serious experience and some real achievements in this field. They are, however, mostly dated from the 1960s and 70s, when it successfully completed the design of Tu-144 supersonic passenger aircraft, along with several military aircraft, based on supersonic technologies.”