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Published by: kyoobum on Jun 18, 2012
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Supersonic Flight is dominated by oblique shockwaves.

The drag caused by Normal shockwaves, which dominated transonic flight, disappears
when supersonic. Therefore, it is not surprising that drag actually decreases in Supersonic

Once an aircraft is above M=1.0 shockwaves become oblique, but instead of one pair
there are two (see Figure 146.)

Once the aeroplane exceeds Mach 1.0 a bow shockwave forms ahead of the wing. This is
due to the air particles "smashing" into the leading edge of the wing. In subsonic flow
this does not happen because the pressure wave "steer" the air allowing it to flow
smoothly around the leading edge. But, in supersonic flow that cannot happen. The
resulting bow wave is like the wake seen coming from the prow of a ship in the water.

The bow wave creates an area of high pressure at the leading edge of the wing (called the
stagnation point, meaning point where air slows.) Remember that we previously saw that
pressure drag in subsonic flight is due to low pressure behind the aeroplane, but here we
see that a lot of drag is due to high pressure ahead of the aeroplane in supersonic flight
(which when you think about it is more intuitive than the subsonic situation.) The high
pressure at the stagnation point needs to be minimized. The bow-wave and the trailing
oblique shockwaves are shown in Figure 146.

Aerodynamics for Professional Pilots

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