Spectacular “Shock Collar” Forms Around U.S. Navy EA-18G Growler Flying At Low Level in the Cascade Mountains

Vapor cone forms around an EA-18G Growler. (Image credit: Dave Honan)

“Shock collar” generated by U.S. Navy EA-18G Growler caught on camera.

Last month we published an amazing shot showing a U.S. Navy EA-18G Growler Electronic Attack aircraft with the Electronic Attack Squadron 130 (VAQ-130) “Zappers”, based at Naval Air Station Whidbey Island, Washington, flying at low level on VR1355, one of the low level routes running through national parks in the Cascade Mountains, Washington State, in the U.S. Pacific Northwest region.

The visible shock waves along the wings trailing edge axis made that photo, taken by photographer Dave Honan with a Canon 1DX MkII with 100-400L MkII lens and 1.4x MkIII extender in October 2020, particularly interesting.

However, that shot was not the only dramatic photograph taken by Honan on that day. The one that you can find in this article was taken five frames after the shockwave photo: considered the camera shoots at 14 fps, this new image represents the same aircraft 5/14th of a second after the first shot.

As you can see, a “shock collar“, also known as “vapour cone” has formed around the Growler less than half a second after the previous one.

“The cone itself was fully developed for only three frames — it appeared and vanished in that almost imperceptibly brief span of time,” Dave told us in an email.

The shock collars are generated by a sudden drop in pressure associated with high speed that allows water vapour to condense as vapour.

Although many believe that these clouds appear when a jet “breaks” the sound barrier, they can appear when the aircraft flies at subsonic speed, in humid air, as in the photo taken by Honan.

A big thank you to Dave Honan for allowing us to post his photographs. Make sure you follow him on Twitter (@DWHonan) and Instagram (@dwhonan) for many more stunning images.

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.