Boom’s XB-1 Supersonic Test Jet Takes To The Skies

Boom Supersonic’s XB-1 demonstrator took flight for the first time yesterday. XB-1, also referred to as the “Baby Boom,” constitutes a one-third-scale technology demonstrator of the larger 55-seat supersonic airliner design known as Overture, with which Boom is hoping to shake up both commercial and military aviation.

The inaugural flight took place at the Mojave Air & Space Port, California. A video was released by Boom, showing XB-1 during takeoff as well as flying above the desert landscape. That same airspace over “Test Flight Valley” has hosted many historic first flights in the past — including Bell’s X-1, the North American X-15, and the Lockheed SR-71 Blackbird.

​​”[Yesterday] XB-1 took flight in the same hallowed airspace where the Bell X-1 first broke the sound barrier in 1947,” Blake Scholl, Boom founder and CEO, said. “I’ve been looking forward to this flight since founding Boom in 2014, and it marks the most significant milestone yet on our path to bring supersonic travel to passengers worldwide.” 

XB-1 pre-flight. Boom
Boom
XB-1 on the tarmac at the Mojave Air & Space Port. Boom
XB-1 takes flight. Boom

According to Boom, XB-1 ​​”met all of its test objectives​​” during its first flight, “including safely and successfully achieving an altitude of 7,120 feet and speeds up to 238 knots (273 mph, or Mach 0.355).” Flight-tracking data shows that the aircraft flew for under 30 minutes in total.  

“While XB-1 was in the air, the team performed an initial assessment of the aircraft’s handling qualities, including airspeed checks with the T-38 chase aircraft, and assessing the aircraft’s stability in the landing attitude [at a high angle of attack],” the company further notes.

Boom
Boom’s control room engineers keep a close eye on the many moving parts of the mission. Boom

The aircraft was flown by Chief Test Pilot Bill “Doc” Shoemaker, who said the following of today’s events. “Everyone on the XB-1 team should be incredibly proud of this achievement. It has been a privilege to share this journey with so many dedicated and talented professionals. The experience we have gained in reaching this milestone will be invaluable to Boom’s revival of supersonic travel.​​”

Shoemaker pictured in the cockpit of XB-1 pre-flight. Boom
Shoemaker pictured at the Mojave Air & Space Port. Boom

Test Pilot Tristan ​”Geppetto​” Brandenburg, who flew the T-38 chase aircraft that monitored XB-1 in the air, said: ​”Being in the air with XB-1 during its maiden flight is a moment I will never forget. The team has been working hard to get to this point, and seeing today’s flight through mission completion is a huge accomplishment for all of us.”

Brandenburg pictured at the Mojave Air & Space Port. Boom

XB-1, which The War Zone has previously written about, measures 62.6 feet long and features an elongated delta-wing planform with a wingspan of 21 feet. The demonstrator “leverages state-of-the-art technologies” in order “to enable efficient supersonic flight including carbon fiber composites, advanced avionics, digitally-optimized aerodynamics, and an advanced supersonic propulsion system,” Boom highlights.

Schematics for XB-1. The caption reads, “XB-1 is 62.6 feet long with a wingspan of 21 feet.” Boom

Its propulsion system comprises three General Electric J85-15 turbojets (the same as what’s found in the F-5 Freedom Fighter), which collectively provide more than 12,000 pounds of thrust. XB-1 is expected to have a top speed of around Mach 2.2 (1,687.99 miles per hour).

Now that its first flight has been conducted, Boom is set to expand XB-1’s flight envelope in order to confirm its performance and handling qualities through, and beyond, Mach 1. Shoemaker will once again be in the cockpit for the first supersonic flight when this occurs.

XB-1 touches down after its first flight. Boom

Of course, the achievement represents a huge milestone for the company, and particularly for its future Overture supersonic airliner. Overture will measure 201 feet from nose to tail, and theoretically be able to achieve cruising speeds of Mach 1.7 (1,304 miles per hour) and a maximum speed of Mach 2.2. It will, according to Boom, have a maximum range of 4,500 nautical miles.

Rendering of Overture in flight. Boom

For Boom, Overture has both potential commercial as well as military applications.

In terms of defense-related interest, the company has been working with the U.S. Air Force since 2020 to explore a configuration of Overture intended specifically for government executive flight. The rapid transit of cargo, as well as personnel transport, could well constitute future Air Force uses of Overture. 

In July 2022, Northrop Grumman and Boom announced a collaboration to develop a variant of the future Overture supersonic airliner specifically for the U.S. and allied military forces. As Boom highlighted, that variant could well provide the military with the speed needed to execute “rapid-response missions.”

Boom

“Fitted with specialized capabilities, the aircraft could be used to deliver medical supplies, provide for emergency medical evacuation or surveil vast areas faster than conventional aircraft,” the company noted. “The special mission Overture variant could also be used to coordinate other aircraft and ground assets in a variety of scenarios.”

In September last year, Boom announced the launch of its Defense Advisory Group, building on its collaboration with Northrop Grumman, to progress development on “defense variants” of Overture. The aim of the group is to help identify the “national security missions” the aircraft could be used for; although Boom did not specify which missions are being explored by the Defense Advisory Group in its announcement.

Boom

Of course, this isn’t the first time in recent memory that potential commercial supersonic aircraft could be useful for military applications. Back when Lockheed Martin announced that it was working with Aerion to develop the AS2 supersonic business jet — which has since gone defunct — in 2017, we outlined the various ways in which its capabilities could be harnessed by the U.S. military, which you can read more about here.

On the commercial side, Overture will supposedly accommodate a total of 64-80 passengers, with the aim of making supersonic travel more affordable to greater numbers of travelers. The aircraft itself is “designed… to be profitable for airlines at fares similar to first and business class… across hundreds of transoceanic routes,” the company’s website notes, in theory offering business-class fares at a fraction of the cost of tickets to board the Anglo-French Concorde, which was retired from commercial supersonic flight in late-2003.

Each aircraft will cost $200 million to produce, Boom has claimed in the past. It states on its website that “Overture’s order book stands at 130 orders and pre-orders,” with commitments from American Airlines, United Airlines, and Japan Airlines.

Overture is slated to roll out in 2026, begin test flights in 2027, and is expected to receive type certification by 2029; an end goal that Boom has targeted for several years at this point. However, this timeline is very much subject to a huge number of different factors going right for the company and is extremely ambitious.

Whether or not Boom ultimately sticks to this schedule, or anything resembling it, the first flight of XB-1 marks an important step towards making the company’s vision of commercial supersonic flight a reality.

And regardless of whether Overture comes to fruition, it’s just awesome to see a new exotic test jet gracing the skies over the Mojave Desert. 

Boom

Contact the author: oliver@thewarzone.com

Oliver Parken Avatar

Oliver Parken

Associate Editor

Oli’s background is in the cultural and military history of twentieth-century Britain. Before joining The War Zone team in early in 2022, he was Assistant Lecturer at the University of Kent’s Center for the History of War, Media and Society in the U.K., where he completed his PhD in 2021. Alongside his contributions to The War Zone‘s military history catalog, he also covers contemporary topics and breaking news.

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