Hermeus Takes Flight with First Hypersonic Test Aircraft

A Hermeus Quarterhorse Mk1 hypersonic test aircraft
Photo Credit: Hermeus

Hermeus, a company pioneering operational hypersonic aircraft, unveiled its first creation – the Quarterhorse Mk 1. This uncrewed, remotely piloted aircraft boasts a GE J85 engine and is set for its maiden flight later in 2024.

The unveiling marks a significant milestone for Hermeus. In just one year, Hermeus successfully completed testing of their first aircraft, the Quarterhorse Mk 0 (in November 2023), and integrated and built their second fully operational aircraft, the Mk 1.

This rapid development cycle sets a new standard, with Hermeus aiming to produce one aircraft per year.

The Mk 1 prioritizes demonstrating high-speed takeoff and landing capabilities – a crucial technology for future hypersonic aircraft in Hermeus’ roadmap. Hermeus will conduct flight tests for the Mk 1 at Edwards Air Force Base.

Transitioning to Integrated Testing

This unveiling signifies the Mk 1’s transition from design and build to a comprehensive testing phase. The coming months will see the aircraft undergo rigorous testing across various aspects.

Testing will include subsystems, ground station operations, and human factors, ensuring a successful flight later this year.

The Quarterhorse program strategically builds upon each aircraft’s complexity. The company incorporates learnings from each aircraft into the next, effectively managing risk and speeding up delivery for their customers.

“Our unique approach lies in this rapid iteration cycle,” explains Hermeus CEO and Co-Founder, AJ Piplica. “Designing, building, and flying an aircraft within a year is a pace unseen in the industry for decades.”

“This strategy has proven successful in other sectors, and we’re bringing it to the world of aircraft development. This speed is crucial for overcoming the challenges of operationalizing hypersonic flight.”

A Look at the Future: Quarterhorse Mk 2

Alongside the Mk 1 reveal, Hermeus posted plans for the next aircraft – the Mk 2. This model will utilize the Pratt & Whitney F100 engine, enabling supersonic flight testing next year.

“The F100 engine has a long history of powering high-performance aircraft,” says Josh Goodman, Senior Director of the F100 Program at Pratt & Whitney.

“We’re excited to partner with Hermeus and see a new aircraft using the F100 achieve supersonic speeds next year.”

Strategic Move Towards Darkhorse

Hermeus’ decision to transition to the F100 engine for the Mk 2 accelerates their path towards the Darkhorse – a multi-mission hypersonic aircraft designed for defense and national security.

The Mk 2 also serves as a stepping stone, becoming the world’s first dedicated high-Mach drone.

“Upgrading to the F100 engine allows us to deliver a high-performance aircraft to customers sooner,” says Hermeus COO and Co-Founder, Skyler Shuford.

“Our rapid development approach lets us build the right aircraft for the present and get it flying quickly.”

“The Mk 2 will be our third aircraft built in under a year, and with flight testing soon, we’re significantly reducing programmatic risk by having the next aircraft ready to follow.”

About Hermeus

Hermeus is an aerospace and defense technology company founded to radically accelerate air travel by delivering hypersonic aircraft.

The company aims to develop hypersonic aircraft quickly and cost-effectively by integrating hardware-rich, iterative development with modern computing and autonomy.

This approach has been validated through design, build, and test of the company’s first combined turbojet-ramjet engine and is now being scaled through its first flight vehicle program, Quarterhorse.

Hermeus is also developing Darkhorse — an uncrewed hypersonic aircraft designed to deliver unique asymmetric capabilities to the warfighter.

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By Len Varley - Assistant Editor 4 Min Read
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