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So I heard that the Ozone Layer is a layer of gas in Earth's atmosphere. And I also heard once that the Ozone Layer is crucial in protecting life on Earth, as it blocks out harmful rays emitted by the Sun. But over the years, the Ozone layer is slowly degrading due to the constant emission of chemicals. That's straight forward stuff...

But I once heard that super sonic jets can also contribute to the degradation of the Ozone Layer. What!? I didn't know jets could do that! This is what I would like to know:

  1. Is this claim true?

  2. And if it is, how high up and fast do the jets have to be?

  3. Also, how is this even possible?

Does the jet create strong winds to blow the Ozone Layer away or something? Any feedback would be highly appreciated, thanks!

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There is no such thing as a mantle of O3 in the atmosphere, it is more prudent to call it ozonosphere. Ozone is produced by electrical discharges, you can relate to its smell if you leave an electrical motor spinning for some time or after thunderstorms. But mostly it is produced by ultraviolet light hitting Oxygen (O2)! You see, that is the O2 that protects humans from ultraviolet light and ozone will be produced more whenever light from the sun contacts oxygen. On the other hand, if you are actually worried about ozone per se, jets fly at the altitude of ozonosphere where the ratio of Ozone to Oxygen gas is higher. These jets consume tonnes of Ozone to burn querosene in their engines in flight. Other free radicals can also react with ozone, but it is itself a free radical, and it can react with itself on certain energy levels.

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Yes, high flying jets can damage the ozone layer, but the consensus of opinion is that at present this damage is trivial and nothing to worry about. If, on the other hand, Concorde-type supersonic transports were to become commonplace, it might be another matter. It was found that Concorde's engines produced much more sulphuric acid particles than the exhausts of subsonic aircraft, and it was this sulphuric acid that damaged the ozone layer. Whether or not enough supersonic military aircraft fly at the relevant altitude and cause significant damage is something nobody seems to know, but probably not. The jets need to fly at altitudes between about 30,000 feet and 45,000 feet to cause ozone damage.

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    $\begingroup$ So it's the plane's exhaust that deals all the damage? $\endgroup$
    – user17688
    Sep 15, 2019 at 21:55
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    $\begingroup$ 30,000-40,000 feet is normal jet airliner altitude. Concorde used to go much higher. I would also be surprised if nobody knows what height military aircraft fly at... (with a few classified exceptions) $\endgroup$ Sep 16, 2019 at 0:24
  • $\begingroup$ It depends which military aircraft you're talking about. U2 used to fly at 70,000 feet, and so did its successor, the Blackbird. Only recce or research aircraft fly that high. $\endgroup$ Sep 16, 2019 at 9:37
  • $\begingroup$ It would be ridiculous to assert that even the manufactures, the airforce generals, ground crew and pilots don't know what the operating heights of their aircraft are, but that's not what I meant. I was talking about the general public. Military authorities like to keep the performance of their best planes secret. $\endgroup$ Sep 16, 2019 at 10:23

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