Air Force Eying Supersonic Air Force One


The Air Force is toying with the idea of giving the president a supersonic ride to his or her international appointments. According to the Air Force’s Presidential and Executive Airlift Directorate has awarded a $1 million small business innovation research contract to aerospace startup Exosonic to nail down the basics of a low-boom supersonic aircraft that could serve as Air Force One. The aircraft would be a derivative of Exosonic’s 70-seat Mach 1.8 airliner that the company is hoping to roll out in 2025.

The contract “will support Exosonic’s efforts to develop and modify the company’s commercial supersonic airliner to serve as an executive transport vehicle,” a company news release said. “These modifications will include reconfiguring the aircraft cabin to include the required accommodations, communications equipment, and security measures that allow U.S. leaders and their guests to work and rest onboard the aircraft.” It’s also the second such contract awarded.

In August, the Air Force awarded a $1.5 million contract to Hermeus, which is proposing a Mach 5 commercial aircraft. As with the Exosonic contract, Hermeus will use the money to adapt its design for executive transport. Meanwhile, the next two VC-25 aircraft, the replacement for the Boeing 747-400s normally referred to as Air Force One, are currently in pieces and in the process of being rebuilt to meet presidential transport requirements. That includes the installation of air stairs, medical facilities, security, system and other modifications.

Russ Niles
Russ Niles is Editor-in-Chief of AVweb. He has been a pilot for 30 years and joined AVweb 22 years ago. He and his wife Marni live in southern British Columbia where they also operate a small winery.

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  1. I guess I am trying to figure out where and why would the presence of the President of the United States need to be anywhere? Most of the time, the need to be anywhere fast has to do with a security problem, a national or international disaster, or war. And these would be the last places a President needs to be.

    Instead, Air Force One, what ever type of airplane it is…needs to be big enough to accommodate all of the attributes of a flying White House, with loiter capability a big, big plus. The last thing we need is fast transport of our President, whose arrival is announced with a big boom, at global locations with varying degrees of airport accommodations such as runway length., local topography adding to the logistical nightmare consisting of transport aircraft loads of support equipment needed to make a face to face meeting even possible. Loiter time in a supersonic aircraft is like having the Concorde in a holding pattern.

    Boom! “Well Martha, sounds like President____________( fill in the blanks) is in town”. If there is any technology needed today is a secure Skype line to keep the President IN the White House not traveling OUTSIDE supersonic to Martha’s Vineyard, Margo, Camp David or any here else for that matter. He or she can do their talking via a monitor rather than an expensive flight in a hotrod airplane.

  2. Not seeing it. Not enough room to haul along the press. They should have bought a Gulfstream G650 or a Global 7000 this last time but there isn’t any way it would be approved by any president I have ever heard of.

      • “Not enough room to haul along the press” is a feature of dictatorships, not democracies. You just outed yourself YARS. Having witnessed this while living 25 of my 71 years under dictatorship, I’d rather put up with a press that needs to be evaluated for veracity on a daily basis than no press at all.

        • Send the press ahead in advance. They can cover him from both ends – but no ‘pressing’ need to travel in the same plane.

  3. Minor editing point to the story: the current VC-25 is not a 747-400. They are B-747-200 models with the -400’s engines.

  4. The president needs an supersonic Air Force One? Why not teach the president to fly and offer him an older F-22 from the Air Force. It would certainly save a lot of money. I know if I was president that I would approve such an idea immediately!

  5. Going to be interesting. There is a reason the new Air Force One (VC-25B) is still a 747 is requirements. Not only big enough to haul all it needs to, but one requirement is a 4 engine aircraft. I am not up to speed on the current supersonic designs. But I get the current list of requirements will need to be tweeked to meet a different air frame.

  6. “Exosonic’s 70-seat Mach 1.8 airliner that the company is hoping to roll out in 2025”. If they mean “roll out a full-scale non-functional model”, yeah. A flying example that is certified? No.

  7. Never going to happen. This is just a way to funnel some development money to the two companies. The primary purpose for the funding is described as “will support Exosonic’s efforts to develop and modify the company’s commercial supersonic airliner to serve as an executive transport vehicle”. Then as an afterthought “These modifications will include reconfiguring the aircraft cabin to include the required accommodations, communications equipment, and security measures that allow U.S. leaders and their guests to work and rest onboard the aircraft.”

    Think about the funding battles for the current 747 replacement and the fiasco surrounding the new Marine One. A supersonic aircraft would only be suitable for international trips so it won’t replace the 747. That means adding yet another very expensive aircraft to the fleet. Doesn’t make sense. The 747 will handle all the needs, just a little slower.

  8. Another prime example of unnecessary military spending on an unneeded and overpriced toy. With the onboard communications capability of the 747, getting to the destination at mach+ speeds is not needed. The biggest advantage of the 747 is range and loiter capability. I doubt that either SST under development will have the range to cross the Pacific non-stop. Landing for fuel or even slowing for in-flight refueling will obviate much of the SST’s speed advantage. Maybe we could just reactivated one of the two-seat SR-71s if he really needs to get somewhere fast.

  9. I wonder if the people writing the requirement even know how the current AF1 operation works. The 747 flies a zig-zag pattern so that the C-17 has enough time to fly straight there and unload the limo. If the president flies supersonic, how can the support team get there first and set up?

  10. Y’all are overlooking the obvious; the SST trips are so fast there is no need for full sleeping amenities. Fully reclining seats provide all the nap-time comfort needed for the short trips an SST would be used for. Likewise the need for a big show or even the limo on arrival at destination, not likely if the speed is that important. If loiter time might be a factor, that is a different mission that a slower aircraft would be appropriate for. As for needing 4-engines, with both VC-25s tied up for modifications the president has been traveling on twin-engine Boeings and will be for some time.

  11. Pull the Concorde off it’s NYC parking place next to the Intrepid. Airplane is already paid for by it’s donation to a 501/C3. IRAN the airplane, top off with fuel, and the President can be in Europe in 3 hours or less. The Europeans know how to maintain it better than we do. When not in use, stick it back on the floating barge, relight the admission sign to “on”, charge a couple of bucks for a tour of the non-classified parts of interior and we tax-payers get a bit of another rebate for fuel costs.

    Every five years take it to Oshkosh for more money earned on revenue flights out over Lake Michigan and back. If we have any questions we can call the Brits or the French. EAA gets a boost, again tax-payers get a small amount of relief, the Brits and French can do some flag-waving, and the US gets to look like Europe’s best western buds. Inhofe, Tom P, grinning ear to ear with the obligatory handshake with French and British flight crew dressed in EAA hats and windbreakers. Problem solved.

    I guess the next question is…who wants a US President ( no matter who he or she is) in country (at all) especially within 3 hours?

    But then we would have a problem with the Chinese, Japan, and those in SE Asia. No range, no supersonic trips to Beijing equals ruffled diplomatic feathers. The Chinese did not get one of the retired Concorde’s so they could not reverse engineer one. And without an occasional Presidential trip in the fast ol’ gal, it would not provide the access to the airplane for reverse engineering too. Aussies and Kiwis would be thinking we don’t like them if a US president shows up in Fat Albert especially after Quantas retired theirs. Sort of a slap in the diplomatic face I would say.

    But since there are skirmishes all over the planet, we usually have a bunch of KC-135’s in the air just about anyplace on the globe, tankering our worn out flying police force. So in-flight refueling might be already solved thanks to constant terrorist threats quite often in the direction of SE Asia. Can you imagine a B2 from the Midwest on its way to the middle east in formation with Concorde One for a top off of Jet-A? What a photo op! Yeah, going fast with class has it’s diplomatic challenges.

  12. Why do we need this? More of our tax dollars being thrown out with the blue water just to make a statement!

  13. By the time this plane would get past any thought of certification, SpaceX’s Starship would already be doing sub-orbital trips for tourists (also to be considered Blue Origins New John Glenn). The Air Force, instead of spending billions on a plane with limit capabilities just put in a bid for a custom Starship (that has a proposed cost of under 50 million a flight), set on stand by for when the President needs to be where ever ASAP. Given Boeing’s current track record, I might trust SpaceX for the President’s safety better.

    The potential configuration is for up 100 people so there is room for press, security, and service support since now the limo can be loaded on the vehicle. Imagine, DC to Sidney in under an hour, beats the hell out of a super sonic plan any day.

  14. It seems like maybe a B-1 Lancer would be able to be refitted for this. The rest of the vehicles and personnel would obviously need to be sent ahead of time. I don’t know that there would be much “need” for a supersonic AF1, but it would be kinda cool to have. I guess it could be seen as mostly a tactical AF1. Flown into US military bases to give the troops a high-five a few hours after a major accomplishment.