Exosonic Developing Supersonic UAS Concept For USAF

Credit: Exosonic

Los Angeles-based startup Exosonic will develop a concept for a purpose-built, supersonic unmanned aircraft system (UAS) under a 15-month, $750,000 U.S. Air Force contract, the company announced Oct. 12.  

 If a follow-on contract is signed to launch development, the unnamed UAS could serve a military role in adversary air training as well as help Exosonic continue development of a low-boom supersonic transport for the commercial and defense markets.  

 “The supersonic UAS 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,” Exosonic CEO Norris Tie says.  

 Offering the UAS as a service to the Air Force would also generate a revenue stream, with any proceeds able to be reinvested in development of the supersonic transport.  

The company has targeted late 2023 or early 2024 for first flight of the military UAS, an Exosonic spokeswoman says. Exosonic plans to select a commercial off-the-shelf engine for the supersonic UAS and design the airframe around it, she adds.  

The UAS would fill an emerging role for adversary air training. The Air Force often contracts with private companies operating surplus fighters to fly training sorties against military pilots. One of those companies, Tactical Air Support, says it is working with Exosonic to see how a supersonic UAS can team up with its fleet of Northrop F-5 adversary fighters. 

“Tactical Air Support is excited to see an emerging supersonic UAV platform that can operate jointly with a piloted contract adversary,” says Jim DiMatteo, a pilot and communications director for Tactical Air Support.  

Exosonic is also designing a Mach 1.8 supersonic transport for the commercial market. The aircraft would feature a muted boom signature, registering on the ground between the sound of traffic and a normal conversation.

Steve Trimble

Steve covers military aviation, missiles and space for the Aviation Week Network, based in Washington DC.