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Aerodynamic drag of missiles

or the price of high speed flight

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3.1 The different types of drag

1. We can divide the flow field around a missile into 2 regions

2. Typically the fore body is the responsibility of the aerodynamist while the base comes under the propulsion engineer. Why ?

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3. There are three main contributions to the missiles drag Type Viscosity of air Shape of forebody Exhaust and wake Cause

Skin friction drag

Pressure drag Base drag

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3.1.1 Skin friction drag

The skin friction drag is the downstream resultant of all shear (viscous) forces experience by the fore body

1. Shear forces are tangential to the missiles surface

2. It is dependent on the amount of wetted area

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3. A quick estimate of the skin friction drag is to take the viscous drag of a flat plate with the same surface area, length and Reynolds number as the missile Viscous drag coefficient for a flat plate CDfp 0.043 / (Rel)1/6 for Re ~ 106 - 107

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Exercise : Derive an approximation for the skin friction drag coefficient of a missile of length l and diameter d ( = 2 r)


F (1/2 V2) ( r2)

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3.1.2 Pressure drag

Pressure drag is the downstream resultant of all the pressure forces on the forebody

1. Pressure forces acts normal to the missile surface

2. So which part of the forebody will contribute significantly to pressure drag ?

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3. You can observe the high pressure at the missiles nose even when the missile flies at a small angle of attack

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3. For lower speeds, pressure drag can still be more significant than skin friction drag. 4. Unless the object is streamlined

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3.1.3 Base drag

Base drag is the drag resulting from the wake or dead air region behind the missile.

1. Base drag is less of a problem during powered flight but during free flight it can account for as much as 50% of total drag.
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2. Base drag can be reduced by tapering the tail (boat tailing).

Looks like a good idea ?

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Boat tail missile exhaust

Question : Is there a catch for missiles ?

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3.2 Drag variation with speed

1. As a missile approaches M = 1, drag increases significantly

2. This is known as the transonic drag rise

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3. Missiles have to pass through this transonic drag rise to get to supersonic speeds

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4. At supersonic speeds drag tends to level off

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3.3 Drag reduction using sweepback

1. Critical aerodynamic surfaces are swept back to reduce this transonic drag rise

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2. This works because ...

M velocity vector

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Example : WWII German missiles

V1 straight wings
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V2 swept back fins

An interesting example of the use of sweepback

Me 262 first operational jet fighter

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What is the moral of the story ?

Example : So what can you deduce from the sweep back angle ?

Maverick AGM = 80 o

Bloodhound SAM = 26 o

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It would seem that the sweep angle doesnt provide much info ... = 26o

Mn M

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= 16o

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3.4 Drag reduction using the Area-Rule

Near Mach 1,

the drag of a slender wing-body combination

is equal to

that of a body of revolution having the same cross-sectional area distribution

What does this mean ?

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A : slender body

C : Equivalent body of revolution for wing-body B D : Pinched body A, i.e. lower drag c/o B
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B : Wing-body combination with higher drag

This concept was first applied to the F102 to achieve supersonic flight

But is it commonly used in missiles now ?

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