Aerion Corporation and Lockheed Martin confirmed, at a joint press conference in Washington, D.C. on 15 December, that they had joined forces to explore further development of the Aerion AS2 supersonic business jet (SSBJ). The aircraft is slated for first flight in 2023, with service entry following certification in 2025. A memorandum of understanding between the two firms establishes a framework for the design, engineering, certification and production of the AS2. Also taking part in the press conference were executives from GE Aviation, which was announced as the chosen engine provider for the SSBJ last May. The order book for the AS2 is now fully open and new orders will join the order for 20 AS2 placed by fractional specialist Flexjet in November 2015.
In September 2014, Aerion announced an agreement with Airbus to assist in the design, production and certification of the AS2. Executive chairman Brian Barents described the new agreement with Lockheed Martin as an “evolving process”. The link with Airbus continues but on a consultancy basis as and when the European manufacturer’s expertise is required.
The joint press conference set out Lockheed Martin’s commitment to the project and its experience in design of supersonic craft, including the iconic SR-71 Blackbird strategic reconnaissance aircraft. The collaboration also marks the manufacturer’s return to the executive jet market having been responsible for launching the Lockheed Jetstar, the world’s first purpose built business jet, in 1961.