AbstractPeening processes can be used as a fatigue enhancement treatment for metallic structures by locally introducing compressive residual stresses. A combined experimental–numerical study on a single‐impact process with a drop tower on the aluminium alloy AA5754, representing the elementary process of mechanical peening, has been performed to investigate different impact parameters on the residual stress profile. Residual stresses have been measured using high‐energy X‐Ray diffraction. A three‐dimensional finite element model is used to predict the residual stresses numerically. The elastic strain components from the numerical results are used to calculate residual stresses by assuming either a plane stress or a plane strain state for different specimen thickness to assess the validity of respective assumption. The validity of the numerical simulation is evaluated based on comparisons of the elastic strain profiles and the percentage loss in kinetic energy of the steel ball due to the impact for four different energies, showing overall a good agreement in the experimental–numerical comparisons.