Russian researchers have embarked on preliminary investigations into development of a civil supersonic aircraft, nearly four decades after the Tupolev Tu-144 programme ended.

The work is being undertaken by the Zhukovsky Institute, a federal collective national research organisation which includes several centres – among them the Central Aerohydrodynamic Institute, the Central Institute of Aviation Motors, and the Siberian Aeronautical Research Institute.

This organisation has been established to co-ordinate research into new developments and technologies in the aviation sector.

Zhukovsky SST

Source: Zhukovsky Institute

While a formal design has yet to be revealed, this concept has been floated

Director general Andrei Dutov says the creation of a commercially-successful supersonic aircraft is a “big challenge” for the industry.

“It is necessary to find effective solutions to the problems of high levels of noise and sonic shock, increase the fuel efficiency of powerplants, and reduce harmful emissions,” he says.

“It’s too early to talk about the cost of the new aircraft. But it will, of course, be more expensive than its subsonic counterparts.”

Dutov says the intention is to draw up a concept and a comprehensive programme for creating the aircraft, including gathering scientific and technical resources, enabling manufacturers to start technical design work as early as 2022.

The preliminary research is part of a state contract reached with the Russian trade and industry ministry running to the end of 2021.

Few details of the proposed aircraft have emerged, but initial illustrations indicate twin-tailed configurations with centrally-mounted engines are being examined.

Dutov says the aircraft would need to cruise at some 1,100kt (2,000km/h), else it would have few advantages over subsonic designs.

As well as leading to the emergence of new technologies, the institute suggests a business version of the aircraft, with fewer passengers, would open new markets.

Crucial to the development of a supersonic aircraft would be efforts to mitigate noise while overflying populated areas – an issue which plagued the Aerospatiale-BAC Concorde programme – and this could require trade-off with the aerodynamic design.

New engine development, combining high thrust with economic efficiency, will be necessary.

US firm Aerion has been developing its own supersonic civil aircraft, the AS2, which it has been aiming to fly by 2024. The manufacturer claims it has developed a technology enabling a “boomless cruise”, enabling it to fly without creating a sonic boom.

Another US developer, Boom Supersonic, has also been progressing with its own supersonic airliner design, designated Overture, with a demonstrator programme known as the XB-1.