Engineers have revealed the final plans for a new hypersonic fighter jet that can travel around the world in just three hours.
The original plans were unveiled last month with the goal to build the aircraft in the next 10 to 20 years.
“This particular concept is for a military application that would be targeted for an intelligence surveillance and reconnaissance, or ISR and capabilities,” Dr. Kevin Bowcutt, a senior technical fellow and chief scientist of hypersonics for Boeing Research & Technology, said according to the U.K. Daily Star.
Although the aircraft would be first used by the military to carry out airstrikes and reconnaissance missions, it could make its way into commercial airliners.
“It’s certainly within the realm of possibility,” Bowcutt told NBC News. “I think we have the technology now where we could actually do it.”
Others are not so sure passenger travel will be possible in the hypersonic aircraft.
“It’s hard for me to see, at least in the next 15-20 years, that it’s going to be so cost competitive that it’s going to compel the airlines to take a stab at it,” president and CEO of Air Lease Corporation John Plueger said to CNBC.
These fast planes would be able to fly five times the speed of sound, 3,800 miles per hour, according to NBC News.
“It’s two-and-a-half times the speed of a speeding bullet,” Bowcutt said
The sound barrier hasn’t been broken by commercial airliners since the Concorde was retired in 2003.
The Concorde was used by British Airways and Air France and made just under 50,000 supersonic flights. The plane flew at a cruising speed of 1,350 miles per hour, twice the speed of sound, according to British Airways.
“It’s more than twice as fast as the Concorde,” Bowcutt said. “So basically you can get anywhere in the world in one hour across the Atlantic, two hours across the Pacific — pretty much anywhere between two points in one-to-three hours.”
The Concorde was retired on Oct. 24, 2003 due to low passenger numbers and rising maintenance costs, the U.K. Sun reported.
Now, the recently unveiled jet plans could usher in a new wave of hypersonic flights.
“This is one of several concepts and technologies we’re studying for a hypersonic aircraft,” Bowcutt said.
He added that a hypersonic aircraft would need to be made with heat-resistant materials because of the high speeds. Air travel in these planes would also be a lot higher, 90,000 to 100,000 feet — high enough to see the curvature of the Earth — compared to the 35,000 flown by today’s airliners.
“The only difference with a hypersonic plane is that the feeling of takeoff would persist for a few minutes until you got up to speed and altitude,” he said. “Then it would feel no different any other airplane.”
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