Supersonic combat drones to help train future US Air Force pilots
Exosonic has been awarded a contract by the US Air Force to develop a low-boom supersonic Uncrewed Aerial Vehicle (UAV) that will not only be used to demonstrate cutting-edge supersonic aircraft technology, but also to provide next-gen combat drones for fighter pilot training.
Subsonic drones that can act as stand-ins for hostile fighters are currently being tested, but the focus of the new US Air Force supersonic initiative is to train pilots. Training is what divides top-tier military forces from all the rest, but it's also expensive and requires removing combat aircraft and pilots to play the part of near-peer adversaries. This becomes an increasing problem as air wings shrink and pilot shortages worsen.
To produce a supersonic adversary drone, the Air Force hopes to exploit the technology developed by Exosonic for its future commercial airliner. Unlike older faster-than-sound aircraft, the Exosonic drones will use next-generation technology designed to greatly reduce the sonic boom, while improving the aerodynamics.
When fully developed, the new drone will provide fighter pilots with live flight training. It will carry a variety of payloads and sensors and will free up pilots and aircraft for other duties, as well as also reduce wear and tear on combat aircraft.
For its part, Exosonic aims to use the supersonic UAV to demonstrate technologies – and generate revenue – for its future supersonic airliner.
"Our vision at Exosonic is to fly people supersonic everywhere with our airliner designed to fly supersonic over land with a muted sonic boom," says Exosonic CEO Norris Tie. "The supersonic UAV work is critical to our company’s strategy due to how much we’ll learn about designing, manufacturing, and maintaining supersonic airplanes with our first UAV products. The UAV is also important to our company’s longevity. It will provide profits that we can funnel back into our company and give investors, suppliers, and customers confidence that we can deliver supersonic aircraft to the market before anyone needs to make a multi-billion dollar investment."
The period of performance for this Direct to Phase II Contract is 15 months.