# aerodynamic wave drag

## Aerodynamic wave drag

The force retarding an airplane, especially in supersonic flight, as a consequence of the formation of shock waves. Although the physical laws governing flight at speeds in excess of the speed of sound are the same as those for subsonic flight, the nature of the flow about an airplane and, as a consequence, the various aerodynamic forces and moments acting on the vehicle at these higher speeds differ substantially from those at subsonic speeds. Basically, these variations result from the fact that at supersonic speeds the airplane moves faster than the disturbances of the air produced by the passage of the airplane. These disturbances are propagated at roughly the speed of sound and, as a result, primarily influence only a region behind the vehicle.

The primary effect of the change in the nature of the flow at supersonic speeds is a marked increase in the drag, resulting from the formation of shock waves about the configuration. These strong disturbances, which may extend for many miles from the airplane, cause significant energy losses in the air, the energy being drawn from the airplane. At supersonic flight speeds these waves are swept back obliquely, the angle of obliqueness decreasing with speed. For the major parts of the shock waves from a well-designed airplane, the angle of obliqueness is equal to sin-1 (1/M), where M is the Mach number, the ratio of the flight velocity to the speed of sound. See Shock wave, Supersonic flow

The shock waves are associated with outward diversions of the airflow by the various elements of the airplane. This diversion is caused by the leading and trailing edges of the wing and control surfaces, the nose and aft end of the fuselage, and other parts of the vehicle. Major proportions of these effects also result from the wing incidence required to provide lift.

For a well-designed vehicle, wave drag is usually roughly equal to the sum of the basic skin friction and the induced drag due to lift. See Aerodynamic force, Airfoil

The wave drag at the zero lift condition is reduced primarily by decreasing the thickness-chord ratios for the wings and control surfaces and by increasing the length-diameter ratios for the fuselage and bodies. Also, the leading edge of the wing and the nose of the fuselage are made relatively sharp. With such changes, the severity of the diversions of the flow by these elements is reduced, with a resulting reduction of the strength of the associated shock waves. Also, the supersonic drag wave can be reduced by shaping the fuselage and arranging the components on the basis of the area rule.

The wave drag can also be reduced by sweeping the wing panels. Some wings intended for supersonic flight have large amounts of leading-edge sweep and little or no trailing-edge sweep. The shape changes required are now determined using very complex fluid-dynamic relationships and supercomputers. See Computational fluid dynamics

## aerodynamic wave drag

[‚e·ro·dī′nam·ik ′wāv ‚drag]
(fluid mechanics)
The force retarding an airplane, especially in supersonic flight, as a consequence of the formation of shock waves ahead of it.

## Aerodynamic wave drag

The force retarding an airplane, especially in supersonic flight, as a consequence of the formation of shock waves. Although the physical laws governing flight at speeds in excess of the speed of sound are the same as those for subsonic flight, the nature of the flow about an airplane and, as a consequence, the various aerodynamic forces and moments acting on the vehicle at these higher speeds differ substantially from those at subsonic speeds. Basically, these variations result from the fact that at supersonic speeds the airplane moves faster than the disturbances of the air produced by the passage of the airplane. These disturbances are propagated at roughly the speed of sound and, as a result, primarily influence only a region behind the vehicle.

The primary effect of the change in the nature of the flow at supersonic speeds is a marked increase in the drag, resulting from the formation of shock waves about the configuration. These strong disturbances, which may extend for many miles from the airplane, cause significant energy losses in the air, the energy being drawn from the airplane. At supersonic flight speeds these waves are swept back obliquely, the angle of obliqueness decreasing with speed. For the major parts of the shock waves from a well-designed airplane, the angle of obliqueness is equal to sin-1 (1/M), where M is the Mach number, the ratio of the flight velocity to the speed of sound. See Supersonic flight

The shock waves are associated with outward diversions of the airflow by the various elements of the airplane. This diversion is caused by the leading and trailing edges of the wing and control surfaces, the nose and aft end of the fuselage, and other parts of the vehicle. Major proportions of these effects also result from the wing incidence required to provide lift.

For a well-designed vehicle, wave drag is usually roughly equal to the sum of the basic skin friction and the induced drag due to lift. See Aerodynamic force, Transonic flight

The wave drag at the zero lift condition is reduced primarily by decreasing the thickness-chord ratios for the wings and control surfaces and by increasing the length-diameter ratios for the fuselage and bodies. Also, the leading edge of the wing and the nose of the fuselage are made relatively sharp. With such changes, the severity of the diversions of the flow by these elements is reduced, with a resulting reduction of the strength of the associated shock waves. Also, the supersonic drag wave can be reduced by shaping the fuselage and arranging the components on the basis of the area rule. See Wing

The wave drag can also be reduced by sweeping the wing panels. Some wings intended for supersonic flight have large amounts of leading-edge sweep and little or no trailing-edge sweep. The shape changes required are now determined using very complex fluid-dynamic relationships and supercomputers. See Computational fluid dynamics

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