Skip to main content

Reduction of Wave & Lift-Dependent Drag for Supersonic Transport Aircraft

Article Category

Article available in the folowing languages:

Supersonic transport aircraft

Flying at speeds greater than the speed of sound may soon no longer be the privilege of war planes. Market surveys indicate that supersonic transport aircraft is economically viable-provided that fares be compatible to those of subsonic transport. This can be achieved if aerodynamic technology is considerably improved. Aiming at such a target, the current project proposes innovative, aerodynamic analysis methods and sophisticated shape design tools that result in a reduction in the level of the drag experienced by supersonic aircraft.

Industrial Technologies

Feasibility studies for a supersonic transport aircraft show that it is possible in the near future for such an aircraft project to be launched by a consortium consisting at least of the three European aerospace companies; Aerospatiale, BAE Systems and DA. The high launch cost of such a project may require US/Europe collaboration. Market viability for such an aircraft is subject to strict constraints. The aircraft has to be environmentally acceptable and moreover as market surveys show, fares have to be close to subsonic transport rates. In order to achieve these two goals, reduction in the level of the drag of the supersonic aircraft is essential. The EUROSUP project shows that considerable reduction in the drag due to shock waves and lift is achievable. The reduction is of the order of 20-30% compared with first generation supersonic transport aircraft. Drag forces reach their maximum strength in take off and landing conditions. Reducing their maximum values will result in a reduction of the engine thrust required and consequently of the noise generated by the aircraft. For over-land and over-sea cruise lower drag means less fuel consumption and hence improved cost effectiveness and increased payload. With computational fluid dynamic methods, the EUROSUP project partners, accurately simulated supersonic and transonic cruise, but the computational procedure failed for low speeds. In the next stage of the project, aerodynamic design methods were employed to optimise the design of the aircraft's wing shape. A single basic wing shape was selected that its use will achieve the aimed reduction of drag. Furthermore, a wind tunnel model was manufactured and tested at supersonic and transonic conditions and also at landing and take off conditions. Finally the aircraft model and flight configurations were analysed using computational fluid dynamic methods and the results were in good agreement with the design predictions and the wind tunnel model measurements. The results of the EUROSUP project can be used to improve the competitive position of Europe in a potential supersonic aircraft programme. The current research methods will also aid the manufacturing industries of combat aircrafts and the aerodynamic analysis methods developed in conjunction with the shape design tools will find extensive applications in the broader market of the aerospace industry.

Discover other articles in the same domain of application