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Love the Smell of Afterburners in the Morning

Burned jet fuel has a distinct, sweet type of burning smell, and we can’t get enough of it. As far as the five senses, smell is the second to last with which we experience aviation, the final one of course being touch.

F-15 Eagle taxies onto the runway while a Strike Eagle lights up morning.
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Need for Speed: A close look at the Art of the Afterburner

What’s faster than a jet engine?

Turbine engines are notoriously capable of achieving incredible speeds. But shortly after their initial development, a novel idea was born… Dump raw jet fuel straight into the exhaust of a jet engine.

A phenomenal mixture of combusting fuel and hot gasses roaring out the back of the engine…

CORAL SEA (July 16, 2019) An EA-18G Growler from Electronic Attack Squadron (VAQ) 141 launches from the flight deck aboard the Navy’s forward-deployed aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76). Ronald Reagan is participating in Talisman Sabre 2019, which illustrates the closeness of the Australian and U.S. alliance and the strength of the military-to-military relationship. It is the eighth iteration of this exercise. Ronald Reagan, the flagship of Carrier Strike Group 5, provides a combat-ready force that protects and defends the collective maritime interests of its allies and partners in the Indo-Pacific region. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Janweb B. Lagazo)

Rather than fueling the engine once, when the incoming air is at its most compressed, engines fitted with afterburners also known as “reheat,” inject fuel twice. The result is a phenomenal mixture of combusting fuel and hot gasses roaring out the back of the engine, thrusting it and everything to it forward with incredible energy.

An F-15E Strike Eagle rockets out of RAF Lakenheath on a mission over Europe.

Recon drones and commercial aircraft generally don’t require the acceleration provided by afterburners

Future of Afterburners

While some rapidly advancing areas of aviation, especially drone and eco-friendly initiatives, are making great strides with the need for afterburners, they are solidly here to stay. Recon drones and commercial aircraft generally don’t require the acceleration provided by afterburners, but it is absolutely essential for modern fighter jets.

Pilots from the 388th and 419th Fighter Wings taxi F-35As on the runway in preparation for a combat power exercise Nov. 19, 2018, at Hill Air Force Base, Utah. During the exercise wings confirmed their ability to employ a large force of jets against air and ground targets, demonstrating the readiness and lethality of the F-35 Lightning II. As the first combat-ready F-35 units in the Air Force, the 388th and 419th FWs are ready to deploy anywhere in the world at a moment’s notice. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Justin Fuchs)
F-35s lined up for a Show of Force exercise, testing ability of aircrews to assemble and support a large rapid response force.

The F-35 Lightning II, the latest fighter jet to join the US Military inventory, is equipped with an afterburning engine capable of producing 43,000 lbf of thrust.

More Beautiful Afterburners

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F-16 Viper Demo Team over Langley

U.S. Air Force Maj. Garrett Schmitz, pilot for the F-16 Viper Demonstration Team, performs aerial maneuvers with an F-16 Fighting Falcon at Joint Base Langley-Eustis, Virginia, May 16, 2019. Air Combat Command pilots must complete rigorous training and receive certification from four levels of United States Air Force leadership before they can earn the title of Demonstration Team Commander. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Marcus M. Bullock)

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George Bush Missing Man Afterburner Takeoff

FORT WORTH, Texas (Dec. 6, 2018) An F-18 Super Hornet assigned to Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 31, the "Tomcatters," departs from Naval Air Station Fort Worth Joint Reserve Base, Texas, to participate in a monumental 21-aircraft flyover featuring a missing-man formation over the memorial service for late President George H. W. Bush in College Station, Texas. Other squadrons that participated in the flyover came from Oceana, Virginia to Fort Worth, Texas, and included VFA 103, the "Jolly Rogers"; VFA 143, the "Pukin' Dogs"; VFA 32, the "Swordsmen"; VFA 131, the "Wildcats"; VFA 105, the "Gunslingers"; VFA 83, the "Rampagers"; and VFA 87, the "Golden Warriors." U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Jose Jaen (Released).

FORT WORTH, Texas (Dec. 6, 2018) An F-18 Super Hornet assigned to Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 31, the "Tomcatters," departs from Naval Air Station Fort Worth Joint Reserve Base, Texas, to participate in a monumental 21-aircraft flyover featuring a missing-man formation over the memorial service for late President George H. W. Bush in College Station, Texas. Other squadrons that participated in the flyover came from Oceana, Virginia to Fort Worth, Texas, and included VFA 103, the "Jolly Rogers"; VFA 143, the "Pukin' Dogs"; VFA 32, the "Swordsmen"; VFA 131, the "Wildcats"; VFA 105, the "Gunslingers"; VFA 83, the "Rampagers"; and VFA 87, the "Golden Warriors." U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Jose Jaen (Released).

FORT WORTH, Texas (Dec. 6, 2018) An F-18 Super Hornet assigned to Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 31, the “Tomcatters,” departs from Naval Air Station Fort Worth Joint Reserve Base, Texas, to participate in a monumental 21-aircraft flyover featuring a missing-man formation over the memorial service for late President George H. W. Bush in College Station, Texas. Other squadrons that participated in the flyover came from Oceana, Virginia to Fort Worth, Texas, and included VFA 103, the “Jolly Rogers”; VFA 143, the “Pukin’ Dogs”; VFA 32, the “Swordsmen”; VFA 131, the “Wildcats”; VFA 105, the “Gunslingers”; VFA 83, the “Rampagers”; and VFA 87, the “Golden Warriors.” U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Jose Jaen (Released).

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F-16 Full Afterburner Engine Test

An F-16 Fighting Falcon goes into full afterburners April 4, 2014, during an engine run at the Hush House on Montgomery Regional Air National Guard Base, Ala. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Tech. Sgt. Christopher Baldwin)

An F-16 Fighting Falcon goes into full afterburners April 4, 2014, during an engine run at the Hush House on Montgomery Regional Air National Guard Base, Ala. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Tech. Sgt. Christopher Baldwin)

An F-16C Fighting Falcon goes into full afterburners April 4, 2014, during an engine run at the Hush House on Montgomery Regional Air National Guard Base, Ala. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Tech. Sgt. Christopher Baldwin)

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B-1 Full Afterburner Out Of Guam

A U.S. Air Force B-1B Lancer, assigned to the 337th Test and Evaluation Squadron, Dyess Air Force Base, Texas, takes off Sept. 23, 2018, at Andersen AFB, Guam. Valiant Shield is a biennial, U.S. only, field training exercise with a focus on integration of joint training among U.S. forces. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Gerald R. Willis)

A U.S. Air Force B-1B Lancer, assigned to the 337th Test and Evaluation Squadron, Dyess Air Force Base, Texas, takes off Sept. 23, 2018, at Andersen AFB, Guam. Valiant Shield is a biennial, U.S. only, field training exercise with a focus on integration of joint training among U.S. forces. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Gerald R. Willis)

A U.S. Air Force B-1B Lancer, assigned to the 337th Test and Evaluation Squadron, Dyess Air Force Base, Texas, takes off Sept. 23, 2018, at Andersen AFB, Guam. Valiant Shield is a biennial, U.S. only, field training exercise with a focus on integration of joint training among U.S. forces. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Gerald R. Willis)

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Strike Eagles Full Afterburners To Syria

A pair of U.S. Air Force F-15E Strike Eagles fly over northern Iraq early in the morning of Sept. 23, 2014, after conducting airstrikes in Syria. These aircraft were part of a large coalition strike package that was the first to strike ISIL targets in Syria. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Matthew Bruch/Released)

A pair of U.S. Air Force F-15E Strike Eagles fly over northern Iraq early in the morning of Sept. 23, 2014, after conducting airstrikes in Syria. These aircraft were part of a large coalition strike package that was the first to strike ISIL targets in Syria. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Matthew Bruch/Released)

A pair of U.S. Air Force F-15E Strike Eagles fly over northern Iraq early in the morning of Sept. 23, 2014, after conducting airstrikes in Syria. These aircraft were part of a large coalition strike package that was the first to strike ISIL targets in Syria. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Matthew Bruch/Released)

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B-1 Full Afterburners Towards Syria

A U.S. Air Force B-1B Lancer flies over northern Iraq after conducting air strikes in Syria against ISIL targets, Sept. 27, 2014. The strikes were conducted as part of the president's comprehensive strategy to degrade and ultimately destroy ISIL. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Matthew Bruch)

A U.S. Air Force B-1B Lancer flies over northern Iraq after conducting air strikes in Syria against ISIL targets, Sept. 27, 2014. The strikes were conducted as part of the president's comprehensive strategy to degrade and ultimately destroy ISIL. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Matthew Bruch)

A U.S. Air Force B-1B Lancer flies over northern Iraq after conducting air strikes in Syria against ISIL targets, Sept. 27, 2014. The strikes were conducted as part of the president’s comprehensive strategy to degrade and ultimately destroy ISIL. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Matthew Bruch)

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B-1 Full Afterburner At Twilight

A B-1 Lancer, assigned to the 34th Bomb Squadron, Ellsworth Air Force Base, South Dakota, takes off during Deliberate Strike Night at Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada, June 16, 2016. Composed of six different missions, Advanced Integration contains one of the most dynamic pertaining to fourth and fifth Generation airframes, a night exercise known as Deliberate Strike Night. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Kevin Tanenbaum)

A B-1 Lancer, assigned to the 34th Bomb Squadron, Ellsworth Air Force Base, South Dakota, takes off during Deliberate Strike Night at Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada, June 16, 2016. Composed of six different missions, Advanced Integration contains one of the most dynamic pertaining to fourth and fifth Generation airframes, a night exercise known as Deliberate Strike Night. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Kevin Tanenbaum)

A B-1 Lancer, assigned to the 34th Bomb Squadron, Ellsworth Air Force Base, South Dakota, takes off during Deliberate Strike Night at Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada, June 16, 2016. Composed of six different missions, Advanced Integration contains one of the most dynamic pertaining to fourth and fifth Generation airframes, a night exercise known as Deliberate Strike Night. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Kevin Tanenbaum)

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F-22 Afterburners Over Japan

An F-22 Raptor from Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska takes off at Yokota Air Base, Japan, Aug. 3, 2018. The F-22 raptor is a fifth-generation fighter incorporating fourth-generation stealth technology, radical maneuvering capabilities, the ability to fly at supersonic speed without afterburners and unprecedented pilot situational awareness, making it the most dominant and advanced air superiority fighter in the world. (U.S. Air Force photo by Yasuo Osakabe)

An F-22 Raptor from Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska takes off at Yokota Air Base, Japan, Aug. 3, 2018. The F-22 raptor is a fifth-generation fighter incorporating fourth-generation stealth technology, radical maneuvering capabilities, the ability to fly at supersonic speed without afterburners and unprecedented pilot situational awareness, making it the most dominant and advanced air superiority fighter in the world. (U.S. Air Force photo by Yasuo Osakabe)

An F-22 Raptor from Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska takes off at Yokota Air Base, Japan, Aug. 3, 2018. The F-22 raptor is a fifth-generation fighter incorporating fourth-generation stealth technology, radical maneuvering capabilities, the ability to fly at supersonic speed without afterburners and unprecedented pilot situational awareness, making it the most dominant and advanced air superiority fighter in the world. (U.S. Air Force photo by Yasuo Osakabe)

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Aggressor With Afterburner

A U.S. Air Force F-16 Fighting Falcon takes off during the Joint Forces Demonstration Arctic Thunder Open House on Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson (JBER), Alaska, June 30, 2018. During the biennial open house, JBER opens its gates to the public and hosts multiple performers including the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds, JBER Joint Forces Demonstration and the U.S. Air Force F-22 Raptor Demonstration Team. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Javier Alvarez)

A U.S. Air Force F-16 Fighting Falcon takes off during the Joint Forces Demonstration Arctic Thunder Open House on Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson (JBER), Alaska, June 30, 2018. During the biennial open house, JBER opens its gates to the public and hosts multiple performers including the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds, JBER Joint Forces Demonstration and the U.S. Air Force F-22 Raptor Demonstration Team. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Javier Alvarez)

A U.S. Air Force F-16 Fighting Falcon takes off during the Joint Forces Demonstration Arctic Thunder Open House on Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson (JBER), Alaska, June 30, 2018. During the biennial open house, JBER opens its gates to the public and hosts multiple performers including the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds, JBER Joint Forces Demonstration and the U.S. Air Force F-22 Raptor Demonstration Team. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Javier Alvarez)

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F-22 Afterburners Over Langley AFB

A U.S. Air Force F-22 Raptor performs the stiff pitch above the AirPower over Hampton Roads Open House crowd at Langley Air Force Base, Va., May 18, 2018. In its demonstration, the aircraft showed stealth, supercruise, maneuverability, and integrated avionic warfighting capabilities.

A U.S. Air Force F-22 Raptor performs the stiff pitch above the AirPower over Hampton Roads Open House crowd at Langley Air Force Base, Va., May 18, 2018. In its demonstration, the aircraft showed stealth, supercruise, maneuverability, and integrated avionic warfighting capabilities.

A U.S. Air Force F-22 Raptor performs the stiff pitch above the AirPower over Hampton Roads Open House crowd at Langley Air Force Base, Va., May 18, 2018. In its demonstration, the aircraft showed stealth, supercruise, maneuverability, and integrated avionic warfighting capabilities.

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B-1’s Beautiful Afterburner

A U.S. Air Force B-1 Lancer takes off at Andersen Air Force Base, Guam, for an integrated bomber operation Aug.17, 2016. This mission marks the first time in history that all three of Air Force Global Strike Command's strategic bomber aircraft are simultaneously conducting integrated operations in the U.S. Pacific Command area of operations. As of Aug. 15, the B-1 Lancer will be temporarily deployed to Guam in support of U.S. Pacific Command's Continuous Bomber Presence mission. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech Sgt Richard P. Ebensberger/Released)

FOUR afterburning jet engines

The B-1 Lancer is a big plane – a big plane with a big payload. Beyond that it’s expected to go very fast. All of those requirements add up to a need for some serious thrust. The shot below is a great illustration of just the type of power needed to drive the B-1 Lancer.

A U.S. Air Force B-1 Lancer takes off at Andersen Air Force Base, Guam, for an integrated bomber operation Aug.17, 2016. This mission marks the first time in history that all three of Air Force Global Strike Command's strategic bomber aircraft are simultaneously conducting integrated operations in the U.S. Pacific Command area of operations. As of Aug. 15, the B-1 Lancer will be temporarily deployed to Guam in support of U.S. Pacific Command's Continuous Bomber Presence mission. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech Sgt Richard P. Ebensberger/Released)
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