Experimental aerodynamics

The CSIR undertakes research in experimental aerodynamics and implements technologies in this field. The CSIR Experimental aerodynamics research group comprises principal, senior and junior engineers who investigate aircraft and vehicle aerodynamics through the use of the CSIR’s suite of wind tunnels, which ranges from low-subsonic speeds to supersonic speeds. The group is competent in the planning, experimental design and execution of wind tunnel tests, including data post-processing, verification and analysis.

The group is supported by a wind tunnel systems maintenance, upgrade and operations group that specialises in most types of mechatronic systems, instrumentation and plant maintenance operations.

A niche offering of the CSIR in this field is the calibration of low-wind-speed measurement instruments in its South African National Accreditation System-accredited calibration wind tunnel.


Skills and competencies

  • Wind tunnel testing planning, design and execution;
  • Experimental aerodynamic data post-processing, verification and analysis;
  • Low, high-speed aerodynamics;
  • Helicopter airframe and rotor aerodynamics;
  • Store carriage and release aerodynamics;
  • Aircraft and store dynamic characteristics investigations;
  • Vehicle and industrial fluid dynamics;
  • Balance design manufacture, gauging, calibration and application;
  • Wind tunnel model design and manufacture;
  • Specialised wind tunnel rig design, manufacture and implementation;
  • Data acquisition and control specification and implementation;
  • Wind tunnel systems operations;
  • Data processing software development and implementation; and
  • Wind speed instrument accredited calibrations.


Current projects

Medium to long-term research and service projects include:

  • Store carriage and release aerodynamics research;
  • Advanced balance design, manufacturing and measurement technique research;
  • Dynamic measurement rig design and implementation; and
  • Combat aircraft airframe characterisation.


Track record

  • Static wind tunnel tests on most of the South African Air Force combat aircraft types;
  • Participated in the testing of the proposed Cheetah combat wing upgrade programme;
  • Tested the Impala aircraft during the conceptual study for the extended range wing;
  • Rooivalk and Oryx helicopter tests;
  • Participation in the aerodynamic characterisation of most South African developed missiles;
  • Aerodynamic characterisation of most South African-developed unmanned aerial vehicles;
  • Characterisation of 155 mm projectile;
  • Supersonic ramjet inlet development and characterisation;
  • Supersonic ramjet projectile characterisation;
  • Bomb configuration spin dynamics characterisation;
  • International collaborations on aerodynamic characterisation of helicopter-launched anti-ship missile, torpedo and submarine configurations; and
  • International collaborations on the characterisation of advanced generation combat aircraft configurations.



The experimental aerodynamics group collaborates with several universities, both locally and abroad, in the development of fundamental experimental aerodynamic techniques and investigations. These include:

  • University of Johannesburg;
  • University of the Witwatersrand;
  • University of Pretoria;
  • University of West England (United Kingdom); and
  • University of Pisa (Italy).

In South Africa, the experimental aerodynamics group has a track record of collaboration with the South African aeronautical industry in general and particularly with the Denel Dynamics group (former Kentron) and Denel Aviation.

Internationally, the group has collaborated with several industrial aeronautical and naval groups, including Alenia Missile Systems (now incorporated in MBDA), Alenia-Whitehead Naval Systems, Tubitak-Sage, Roketsan and Turkish Aerospace.



CSIR staff participate in international corporate practice societies such as:

  • Subsonic Aerodynamics Testing Association (held chairmanship, hosted international conference in South Africa );
  • STAI Supersonic Testing Association International (held chairmanship, hosted international conference in South Africa); and
  • ISSGB International Symposium for Strain Gauge Balances (invited to host conference in South Africa).