Hypersonic flows are synonymous with high-Mach number flows and therefore are characterized by very strong shock waves. Every hypersonic vehicle has a bow shock wave in front of it, which bounds the flow around the vehicle. On the windward side of a vehicle, the bow shock usually is aligned closely with the vehicle surface, and the distance between the surface and the shock wave is usually small relative to the characteristic dimension of the vehicle. Thus, this shock-layer region is usually quite thin. Hypersonic vehicles tend to fly at high altitudes so that convective heating levels can be managed. Thus, the characteristic Reynolds numbers tend to be low and boundary layers are usually thick. In addition, shear heating in hypersonic boundary layers increases the temperature and viscosity, which also increases the thickness. The low Reynolds number and the relative stability of hypersonic boundary layers mean that many practical hypersonic flows are laminar or transitional. If the flow is turbulent, it is often only marginally turbulent. Therefore, hypersonic flows are particularly susceptible to shock wave–boundary-layer interactions (SBLIs).