Check Out This Photo of an F-35 Thundering Through The “Star Wars” Canyon With Visible Shock Waves

An F-35 performed some high-speed passes through the famous “Jedi Transition” in the Death Valley. Generating visible shockwaves.

The image in this post was taken by world-renowned Dutch photographer Frank Crébas in the Death Valley on Dec. 2, 2016.

It shows one of the RNlAF (Royal Netherlands Air Force) F-35A Lightning II with the 323 TES (Test & Evaluation Squadron), the Dutch unit based at Edwards Air Force Base and responsible for the Operational Test and Evaluation Phase (OT&E) as part of the Joint Operational Test Team, piloted by Maj. Ian “Gladys” Knight, the 323TES’s Director of Operations, flying at low altitude through the famous Rainbow Canyon, located adjacent to Death Valley.

As already explained here, the flight through the canyon (dubbed “Star Wars Canyon” for its resemblance to the ones where some of the most famous scenes of the Lucas’s saga were filmed) out into the expanse of Death Valley and referred to as the “Jedi Transition,” has become very popular with photographers from all around the world who daily exploit the unique opportunity to shoot fast jets, warbirds and also airlifters during their transit through the canyon.

Interestingly, this time the F-35s performed a really high-speed pass.

Take a look:


The aircraft was so fast it generated visible shock waves Crébas got thanks to his EOS 1DX mk II, with a EF-200-400 lens, at 1/2500 shutter speed.

“It was extremely windy out there and made it almost impossible to shoot with such a lens.. But I got it nailed ;-)” Frank wrote in a message to The Aviationist.

The speed of sound at the surface of the earth is a measure of the speed that a vibration travels through the atmosphere. At sea level, this speed is approximately 760 miles per hour (661 knots).

At speed lower than the transonic region, air flows smoothly around the airframe; in the transonic region, airflow begins to reach the speed of sound in localized areas on the aircraft, including the upper surface of the wing and the fuselage: shock waves, generated by pressure gradient resulting from the formation of supersonic flow regions, represent the location where the air moving at supersonic speed transitions to subsonic.

Check out more Frank Crébas’s stunning photographs at the Bluelife Aviation website and Facebook page.




About David Cenciotti
David Cenciotti is a journalist based in Rome, Italy. He is the Founder and Editor of “The Aviationist”, one of the world’s most famous and read military aviation blogs. Since 1996, he has written for major worldwide magazines, including Air Forces Monthly, Combat Aircraft, and many others, covering aviation, defense, war, industry, intelligence, crime and cyberwar. He has reported from the U.S., Europe, Australia and Syria, and flown several combat planes with different air forces. He is a former 2nd Lt. of the Italian Air Force, a private pilot and a graduate in Computer Engineering. He has written five books and contributed to many more ones.


  1. An award-winning photo. The Aviationist should get together with a well known industry sponsor, have readers pick out their best photo for the year as seen on this website, and have some kind of an award given out. Either that or enter it in a contest. Doesn’t Aviation Week have one?

  2. That will work only when they don’t expect to be attacked. A first strike scenario. Won’t work otherwise.

    The main excuse for the over whelming cost of this mediocre platform is stealth and that can be knocked out with technologies already being looked into. This is a pig of a plane in terms of cost and budget and a poor jack of all trades that can little well. Battle field awareness can be placed in any aircraft now, the only shining capability is a stealthy first strike and high level bombing. Relying so much else on this is a huge error for number both in strength and in budget.

    • Won’t work in any other scenario….funny that……in exercise Northern Lightning Red Air flew from the opposite end of the weapons/exercise range knowing that F35s will be coming at them (#nosuprisethere #expectingtobeattacked)…..Red Air was still slaughtered (simulated kills) badly. In other USMC and USAF force on force exercises, simulated advanced IADS (using no sh*t advanced domestic and foreign (bought or stolen) systems) could not detect (much less engage) the F35s even when the simulated advanced IADS personnel knew that the F35s will be coming within a certain time period (i.e. expecting an attack). In one USAF exercise, the F35 pilots literally had to switch on a specific transponder so that a simulated advanced IADS can actually “see” the F35s. Hilarious!! The simulated advanced IADS was otherwise blind to the F35s! You can be damn sure that F35 pilots wouldn’t be activating any obvious transponders in a real combat situation. Basically, it doesn’t really matter whether an adversarial force is expecting an F35 attack or twiddling its thumbs cluelessly…..the adversarial force is just as dead.

      Interesting that the Chinese and Russians are applying F22 and F35 style stealth concepts and technology heavily to their latest fighter aircrafts…….no suprise there….it’s very simple actually……the Chinese and Russians know that silver bullet/all conquering anti stealth technology is bullsh*t and will be bullsh*t for a loooooong time. Stealth technology is not getting knocked out anytime soon and as far as the Chinese and Russians are concerned -> if you can’t beat them….join them.

      As far as operational (i.e. real….not arm chair) F35 pilots are concerned, the F35 is jack of many trades that can do many things well….all in one mission! For example, USMC aviators were impressed that they could perform multiple mission sets very well/very efficiently…..all within one mission with just a few flicks of a switch. Utilising networked advance sensor fusion…..all USMC F35 aviators with a two or four ship formation could rapidly see all threatening IADS sites, adversarial aircraft, primary targets, friendly air and ground forces and rapidly decide the best course of action……this may involve the two ship or four ship formation splitting various A-A, A-G, EW, FAC (A), communications relay and ISR tasks between themselves….. and this may involve the individual pilot performing multiple tasks (A-A, A-G, EW….) almost simultaneously with just a few flicks on the HOTAS switches/PCD touchscreen inputs. Boom!! Overwhelming multiple effects within the adversaries decision cycle. A four ship of F35s could achieve much more within one mission than a four ship of previous generation aircraft (and this just with Block 2B/Block 3i software in operational F35 squadrons!). This was universally obvious to F35 pilots who had flown previous generation tactical platforms. Could a two or four ship of previous generation tactical aircraft try to do what the F35 can do within one mission – sure….ranging from pretty badly to impossible!

      The 1950s are calling you back JB1794……the days of individual platforms excelling in only one/narrow mission set(s) whilst getting stumped or being vulnerable in other mission areas are over! Let me correct something…….relying so much on multiple single role/narrow focus platforms is a huge error for number both in strength and in budget.

      Sure battle field awareness can be placed in any aircraft via high speed broad band networks but you still need tactical platforms who can collect and fuse all sensor and off board information well (and rapidly) before retransmitting the common operating picture and task allocation to other platforms. The F35 does this very well.

  3. DOT&E is pretty highly regarded by people actually in the industry, like me.
    Not so much by politicians, CEOs, and other money men looking to get paid before the product works as advertised.

  4. Great shot!
    The jet is still subsonic. That’s a weak re-compression shock, typically located somewhere near the fattest part of the jet and/or where there’s a lump in the cross-sectional area distribution curve. There can be multiples at the same time.
    At M>1 a single strong bow compression shock will form at the nose and the re-compression shock(s) will have coalesced into one strong shock and moved aft to the tail. That’s why we hear the double-boom.

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