Adding Some ZEHST

Le Bourget, France—France and Japan are partnering to pursue a high-Mach craft that will evolve into a 50- to 100-seat airliner in the 2040-2050 timeframe, Jean Botti, EADS chief technology officer, said here last week during the Paris Air Show. The aircraft, called ZEHST, is meant to be suborbital, eventually making the Tokyo-Los Angeles run in less than two-and-a-half hours. Botti said, within 10 years, the team is expecting to have an unmanned demonstrator that could also compete for the Air Force’s hypersonic weapon system. In less than 20 years, a three-man subscale test version is to fly, and passenger service could begin within 30 years. The chief difference from previous high-speed transports, Botti said, will be the “green” nature of the craft—it will use biofuels or non-polluting hydrogen fuel. The craft will have no less than three propulsion systems: a pair of turbofans to get to altitude, rockets to boost it to very high speeds, and ramjets to cruise until a high-speed gliding descent. Designers want the ZEHST to have minimal sonic boom, which would be confined to a small area behind the craft. (EADS’ ZEHST brochure; caution, large-sized file.)