Boom Supersonic and Northrop Grumman team up to build superfast US military aircraft

Boom Supersonic and Northrop Grumman are partnering to deliver variants of the Overture aircraft to the U.S. government and allies.
Boom Supersonic and Northrop Grumman are partnering to deliver variants of the Overture aircraft to the U.S. government and allies. (Image credit: Boom Supersonic)

Boom Supersonic, which wants to fly passengers faster than the speed of sound, announced a collaboration with Northrop Grumman focused on government sales.

The partnership aims to create variants of Boom's supersonic "Overture" aircraft for military and emergency response, the companies announced (opens in new tab) in a statement Tuesday (July 19). Terms of the deal, including its value, were not disclosed.

Boom emphasized its so-far unproven fleet will be able to support vital missions at high speed, bringing passengers and equipment to critical locations faster than the speed of sound

"Time is a strategic advantage in high consequence scenarios, from emergency evacuations to disaster response," Boom Founder and CEO Blake Scholl said in the statement.

Related: Supersonic! The 10 Fastest Military Airplanes

Northrop Grumman is a long-time supplier to the U.S. armed forces for spacecraft and military aviation systems. The partnership between the two firms will help ensure potential military or government customers can acquire Overture aircraft made for their specific needs. "Pairing Northrop Grumman’s airborne defense systems integration expertise with Boom’s state-of-the-art Overture supersonic aircraft makes perfect sense," Tom Jones, president of Northrop Grumman Aeronautics Systems, said in the statement. "Together we can ensure military variants of Overture are tailored for missions where advanced system capabilities and speed are critical."

Boom has pushed back plans to fly its test XB-1 jet after promising a date sometime in 2021. In May 2022, the company said in a media report from Simple Flying (opens in new tab) that it has completed 80% of its pre-flight testing. 

A rendering of a Boom supersonic aircraft in flight above the clouds.

A rendering of a Boom supersonic aircraft in flight. (Image credit: Copyright © 2022 Boom Supersonic)

Even though Boom is still in pre-flight testing, the company already has multiple contracts, having signed a deal with United Airlines in 2021 to eventually fly passengers at supersonic speeds.

Once ready, Overture will send passengers from Paris to Montreal in only 3 hours and 45 minutes, about half the current metric of 7 hours and 15 minutes, according to Boom (opens in new tab).

Boom's Overture aircraft features a tapered fuselage that has a larger diameter at its front than at its rear, a design the firm claims helps to minimize drag while optimizing fuel efficiency. Four wing-mounted engines propel Overture to speeds of over Mach 1.7 when flying over water and just under Mach 1 over land. 

In addition, Boom claims that Overture's rear-swept gull wings offer the aircraft enhanced stability and safety at any speed. "Aviation has not seen a giant leap in decades. Overture is revolutionary in its design, and it will fundamentally change how we think about distance," Scholl said in the statement.

Boom isn't alone in working on supersonic jets. NASA is readying its experimental X-59 quiet supersonic transport jet for test flights, while Virgin Galactic also has unveiled plans for a new Mach 3 aircraft for supersonic passenger travel.

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Elizabeth Howell
Staff Writer, Spaceflight

Elizabeth Howell, Ph.D., is a staff writer in the spaceflight channel since 2022. She was contributing writer for Space.com (opens in new tab) for 10 years before that, since 2012. Elizabeth's reporting includes an exclusive with Office of the Vice-President of the United States, speaking several times with the International Space Station, witnessing five human spaceflight launches on two continents, working inside a spacesuit, and participating in a simulated Mars mission. Her latest book, "Why Am I Taller?", is co-written with astronaut Dave Williams. Elizabeth holds a Ph.D. and M.Sc. in Space Studies from the University of North Dakota, a Bachelor of Journalism from Canada's Carleton University and (soon) a Bachelor of History from Athabasca University. Elizabeth is also a post-secondary instructor in communications and science since 2015. Elizabeth first got interested in space after watching the movie Apollo 13 in 1996, and still wants to be an astronaut someday. Mastodon: https://qoto.org/@howellspace