F-14 Tomcat Fighter Aircraft in Transonic Flight

Military aircraft routinely accelerate to speeds greater than the local sound speed. Historically, this was referred to as "breaking the sound barrier". The passage from subsonic to supersonic speeds is accompanied by some unusual phenomena which lie in the realm of "nonlinear" mechanical events - events involving some degree of chaos. A fascinating accompaniment to transonic flight is a suddenly appearing vapor cloud surrounding the aircraft. The F-14 Tomcat is one aircraft for which there are numerous photographs and videos like the one below of the vapor phenomenon.

F14-B Tomcat Fighter Jet, United States Navy, Mediterranean Sea, April 22, 2003

Photo credit:Photographer's Mate Airman Justin S. Osborne, Navy NewsStand --Eye on the Fleet Photo Gallery ( http://www.news.navy.mil/view_photos.asp , 030422-N-0382O-588).

This video of an F-14 in transonic flight is posted at many sites on the Internet, but its origin is uncertain. Reference to it and numerous other images of the vapor phenomenon was found on the web site of Jeff Wilkinson.


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