China is looking to join the growing field of nations with civilian supersonic jets, according to a new report by the Global Times.
Xu Yue, a senior engineer at the Chinese Aeronautical Establishment under the state-owned Aviation Industry of China, told China Central Television on Monday, "Green supersonic civil aircraft is currently a hot research topic internationally, as well as the direction of future aerospace development.”
"We hope that, through our own technological development and continued scientific investment, we can launch our own supersonic civil aircraft prototype in around 2035," Xu said.
The Global Times noted that developing green civil aircraft was listed among the top priorities for Chinese aerospace engineers at the China Association for Science and Technology’s annual meeting in the northern city of Harbin.
In April, Chinese university researchers tested a hypersonic plane capable of reaching Mach 5, or over 3,800 miles per hour, Sputnik reported. While several nations have tested hypersonic weapons, researchers at Xiamen University tested a hypersonic vehicle in China’s Gobi Desert that could potentially make the trip from New York to London in only two hours.
At sea level, sound travels at roughly 767 mph, and nearly all civilian aircraft travel slower than that, making that transatlantic flight roughly seven hours in a normal airliner. While for almost 30 years, Air France and British Airways operated a handful of Concorde supersonic airliners, which were capable of Mach 2 flight, the plane was retired in 2003 amid difficulties convincing manufacturer Airbus to continue maintaining the aging jets.
However, supersonic airliners are back on the agenda for a number of countries aside from China: the US space agency NASA has been working with defense contractor Lockheed Martin on a prototype aircraft, the X-59, that will hopefully pioneer the development of a low sonic-boom supersonic airliner. The shockwaves created by supersonic flight can be both irritating and damaging to folks on the ground, shattering both windows and people’s concentration.
An American startup company called Boom Supersonic has also started production of a prototype “Son of Concorde” supersonic passenger aircraft. The company hopes the jet will fly later this year, Sputnik reported.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has also doubled down on his country’s need for a supersonic passenger version of Tupolev’s Tu-160 White Swan strategic bomber.
“We need to return to supersonic passenger service right now. We need to think about it," Putin said in February, Sputnik reported. Decades ago, Tupolev built the Tu-144 supersonic airliner, which actually predated the Concorde by nearly a decade, but the plane was plagued with problems and only flew a couple dozen civilian flights before being retired from passenger duty.