Ship/Airwake Analysis

Perhaps the most demanding of all aviation environments, the operation of aircraft from ship platforms involves turbulent airwake produced by a ship’s superstructure. This phenomenon is a major contribution to the workload required for such operations. Past airwake modeling efforts were, at best rudimentary, offering only representative levels of turbulence for a particular ship class. The current study involves the prediction of time variance for ship dynamics variables.

This research project seeks to understand the physics behind the complex, and difficult to model, interactions (hydrodynamics coupled with aerodynamics) between naval ships, the ocean, the air above and behind, and Naval aircraft flying through airwakes. Turbulent airwakes created behind a ship, such as when a large aircraft carrier plows through the water, are especially evident within the vicinity of an island. An airplane flying behind a ship can experience a sudden and unexpected drop in indicated airspeed, similar to what a moving car experiences while "drafting" behind a tractor trailer. Produced mainly by the ship’s superstructure, the airwake starts out on the scale the same size of the ship, from a length of a few thousand feet, and may extend up to approximately a mile in length.

The emphasis of this work is to understand the physics of ship airwake flows and to predict those flows with sufficient accuracy to aid in ship design, aircraft control system development, and pilot training.  Airwake data produced by Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD) computations has been integrated with real-time, pilot-in-the-loop flight simulations and autopiloted simulations.

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