Supersonic natural laminar flow. It makes the Aerion AS2 possible.

Natural laminar flow

has been applied in subsonic design for many decades. Laminar flow exists where air moves across a wing or even a fuselage in undisturbed layers. Typically, laminar flow wings are relatively thin and smooth so as not to trip boundary layer airflow, which is the air flowing closest to the wing surface. At some transition point, laminar flow becomes turbulent and a source of drag. So the challenge for Aerion has been to design a wing with a high degree – as much as 90 percent - of supersonic natural laminar flow. That has been the successful focus of its design efforts and testing over many years.

Aerion uses proprietary optimization codes to analyze supersonic airflow patterns.

Dr. Richard Tracy, an expert in supersonic and hypersonic vehicles, conducted three DARPA-funded studies of supersonic natural laminar flow in the 1990s. Positive results led to a first flight test of an SNLF airfoil with NASA in 1999. These tests in flights up to Mach 2 demonstrated that real-world SNLF results precisely matched computer models.

In this test, a wing section was accelerated to Mach 2 on a rocket sled.

SNLF airfoils have flown repeatedly beneath NASA F-15B's as part of the Aerion testing regime.

Upon its creation in 2002, Aerion Corporation took up the mantle of testing SNLF airfoils repeatedly in supersonic flight and in transonic wind tunnels. The results verified the earlier findings, helping to build large proprietary databases on this technology.

In 2013, the latest Aerion/NASA flight tests moved to a new phase -- to determine the manufacturing tolerances required to create a full-scale wing capable of sustaining SNLF. These tests also proved successful, and even showed that laminar flow remained robust across a wing surface that had been intentionally roughened, degrading surface smoothness.

The ultimate result of Aerion and NASA working together, is a conclusive demonstration of the viability of SNLF and its ability, when applied in an optimized aircraft design, to generate great efficiency while traveling at supersonic speeds — a benefit for the AS2 and generations of supersonic jets to come.

The Aerion wing nearly eliminates skin friction drag versus other supersonic wings.