Hermeus Corporation, announced today the signing of a $60 million U.S. Air Force partnership for flight testing its first aircraft, Quarterhorse reusable hypersonic aircraft.
This is the first of a planned family of high-speed aircraft from the startup. Although primarily aimed at commercial markets, the Air Force is eyeing the same technology for a future high-speed presidential transport, and potentially other applications, too
Quarterhorse will validate the company’s proprietary turbine-based combined cycle (TBCC) engine, based around the GE J85 turbojet engine, and is the first in a line of autonomous high-speed aircraft
The TBCC powerplant is central to the company’s ambitions and its potential has alerted the Air Force. Essentially, a TBCC engine combines a high-speed ramjet or scramjet with a regular jet turbine to ensure the aircraft can also function at lower speeds.
The advantage of this propulsion arrangement is that the aircraft is able to take off like any other jet, using existing infrastructure, accelerate to high supersonic or hypersonic speeds for the cruise portion of its flight, and then decelerate back down to land at its destination, again as normal.
The company’s TBCC powerplant will include a General Electric J85 turbojet engine, as used in the T-38 Talon jet trainer, and will be validated in the Quarterhorse aircraft, three of which are planned. These unmanned test aircraft will be around 40 feet long with a 10-foot wingspan. A first test flight is expected in only around 18 months.
According to the terms of the Air Force contract, Hermeus is required to flight test a reusable hypersonic propulsion system and then develop, build and test the three Quarterhorse concept aircraft, all over a three-year period.
Further, the company is to “provide a payload integration guide for future hypersonic flight testing with Quarterhorse” and deliver “wargaming inputs for use in Air Force strategic analysis tools.”