By Shane McGinley
Lockheed Martin is developing an aircraft and is in talks with potential buyers in the region
US aerospace contractor Lockheed Martin is developing a silent, supersonic commercial jet which it is aiming to launch within the next few years in order to cater to demand from Arab private jet owners, the company’s regional CEO told Arabian Business in an interview.
“I can tell you that we do a tremendous amount of research… One of the things we are always trying to figure out is how can you drive the [aircraft] airframe through the air mass supersonically and not have a sonic boom impact on the ground,” Charles W Moore Jr, CEO of Lockheed Martin Global’s operations in the UAE, said during an interview in Abu Dhabi.
“We are researching it; we are developing it, looking at it, exploring at it… I suspect some day we may see an airplane that has the ability to travel supersonically quietly,” he added.
Supersonic business jets are small craft that are intended to travel at speeds above Mach 1.0, or over 1,470 kmh. The most recent supersonic aircraft, the now retired Concorde, travelled at Mach 2.04 or 2,179 kmh at cruise altitude.
Lockheed Martin’s 'Skunk Works' division, the nickname for the company’s infamous development unit, has been working on a Quiet Supersonic Transport (QSST) system for the last six years. Designed to fly at around Mach 1.6, the plane is being designed to travel without a loud sonic boom.
Moore said demand for such an aircraft already existed in the region from wealthy Arab jet owners who are eager to fly faster and quieter. “I would say that initially a business jet would be a good way to start with that and we have actually talked to people about the prospect of that in this region,” he said.
While reports claimed the aircraft could be brought to market in 2014 and will cost around US$80m, when pushed for a timeframe, Moore said the commercial roll-out of such technology was some years away.
“It would be measured in years but this isn’t a front-burner project. We are on the verge, we think, of some technology but we are not sure it has great use on the military side but maybe it has better use on the commercial [side],” he added.
The world’s largest defence contractor, Lockheed Martin predicted 2013 sales will decline "at a low single-digit rate from 2012 levels", Bloomberg reported.
The company’s aeronautics unit also reported its third-quarter revenue decreased 7.5 percent to US$3.7bn and operating profit was down 7 percent to US$415m.