- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 2, 2020

Air Force One is already one of the fastest passenger planes in the world — but the Pentagon wants to make it a lot faster.

The U.S. Air Force recently awarded a contract to the aviation firm Exosonic to begin developing a presidential aircraft that can travel at supersonic speeds. The research award, reportedly worth $1 million, will fund work to “modify” Exosonic’s existing plans for a supersonic commercial plane into a proposal for a presidential-grade aircraft.

In a Twitter post this week, the Air Force’s Life Cycle Management Center said the contract is intended to “develop a low-boom supersonic executive transport aircraft that will allow key decision makers and teams to travel around the world in half the time it takes now!”

The current version of Air Force One, a Boeing 747-200B series aircraft, can travel at a maximum speed of .84 mach, according to Boeing.

Dramatically increasing that speed could fundamentally change the nature of presidential travel and make international trips much quicker and easier.

The “low-boom” aspect of the project, officials said, will allow the aircraft to hit those remarkable speeds relatively quietly.

“The future for global rapid passenger travel is low-boom supersonic flight. Low boom allows travelers to fly at supersonic speeds without generating disruptive booms for those on the ground,” Exosonic CEO Norris Tie said in a press release announcing the contract. “Exosonic is excited to win this contract as it represents not only commercial but government promise for low-boom supersonic travel.”

Specifically, the company said its work will focus on “reconfiguring the aircraft cabin to include the required accommodations, communications equipment, and security measures that allow US leaders and their guests to work and rest onboard the aircraft.”

The company intends to roll out a prototype of the commercial version of its supersonic aircraft by 2025, officials told Military.com.

Meanwhile, Boeing already is building an updated Air Force One. The Air Force awarded Boeing a $3.9 billion contract to build two 747-8 aircraft to replace the existing 747-200B planes.

The new planes are expected to be completed by the end of 2024.

• Ben Wolfgang can be reached at bwolfgang@washingtontimes.com.

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