Copyright © A. Filippone (1999-2004). All Rights Reserved.

Thin Airfoils at Transonic Speeds

At transonic speeds linearized theory show that the wave drag associated to the wing thickness growth with the square of the thickness ratio.

Figure 1: Wave drag vs Mach number

Fig. 1 shows the effect of the thickness ratio as function of the Mach number. Thin airfoils yield a slow drag climb in the upper transonic regime. Unfortunately, thin wings of this sort are inadequate for producing lift and sufficient structural stiffness, to accommodate the necessary payload.