The occurrence of the elliptic instability in rings and helical vortices is analysed theoretically. The framework developed by Moore & Saffman (Proc. R. Soc. Lond. A, vol. 346, 1975, pp. 413–425), where the elliptic instability is interpreted as a resonance of two Kelvin modes with a strained induced correction, is used to obtain the general stability properties of a curved and strained Batchelor vortex. Explicit expressions for the characteristics of the three main unstable modes are obtained as a function of the axial flow parameter of the Batchelor vortex. We show that vortex curvature adds a contribution to the elliptic instability growth rate. The results are applied to a single vortex ring, an array of alternate vortex rings and a double helical vortex.
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