The critical enabling technology for the AS2, and for a renaissance of supersonic flight, is Aerion’s proprietary supersonic natural laminar flow technology.
SNLF reduces friction drag over the wings by as much as 80 percent and total airframe friction drag by as much as 20 percent. Those reductions lead to a new level of efficiency for a supersonic jet, and are key to achieving satisfactory intercontinental range.
Aerion, in conjunction with NASA, has conducted extensive SNLF in-flight testing of wing sections at speeds up to Mach 2, validating Aerion’s SNLF technology. Transonic wind tunnel testing has further validated SNLF technology.
Aerion’s large portfolio of U.S. and foreign patents cover apparatus and methods underlying the supersonic laminar flow wing, propulsion installation and various systems, as well as design-optimization software. The latter category includes proprietary codes, some of which are currently licensed to the aeronautical industry for use in developing a wide range of advanced civil and military aircraft.
The AS2 will use carbon fiber for wings, fuselage, empennage (the tail section) and engine nacelles. Carbon fiber is especially well suited for the wing structure, which requires lightness, smoothness, conformity to very precise contours, and, most importantly, high stiffness.
The leading edge of the wing will be made of titanium alloy to resist erosion. Some internal fittings will be fabricated from aluminum, steel and titanium, similar to what would be found in other modern jets.
A fly-by-wire flight control system, featuring active control side-sticks, will employ the best of current military and civil technology.
Mach cut-off cruise is feasible at speeds between Mach 1.1 and 1.2, depending on atmospheric conditions, principally temperature and wind. At these speeds, the shock waves that cause a sonic boom would, essentially, dissipate before reaching the ground. This boomless cruise results from the normal physics of sonic boom propagation and not from any boom mitigation through aerodynamic technology. To operate at these speeds routinely will require flight testing to demonstrate that a sonic boom does not reach the ground.
Success in demonstrating boomless Mach cut-off cruise opens then possibility that the U.S. may adopt ICAO standards, permitting the AS2 to fly at low supersonic speeds over the U.S. (where supersonic flight is now prohibited), as well as internationally.