Thrust Vector Canards

     One of the most innovative breakthroughs in jet fighter technology in recent years are thrust vectoring vanes to allow high angle maneuvers. Aviation Week reported that dogfights were performed by F/A-18 pilots of equal ability during 1996. The F/A-18 HARV with thrust vectors won 30 of 33 engagements.

Photo of Thrust-vectoring control system

     NASA conducted extensive research and testing in the 1990s on three aircraft modified with thrust vectors: the F/A-18 "HARV," the European X-31, and the F-16 "MATV" (below).  Thrust vectoring also allows short take-offs and landings. Tests were deemed successful and ended. As a result, experts expected the new F/A-18Es and F-35s to include thrust vectoring vanes. For some reason, this technology has only appeared in the F-22.  One explanation is that Boeing was selling its expensive F-22 as the world's greatest fighter because of its unmatched maneuverability. If Boeing includes low-cost thrust vectoring vanes on the F/A-18E, the F-22 loses that superiority claim.  Bob Peters at Aviation Week thinks they make carrier landings too easy for F/A-18Es, so crazed carrier pilots dislike them.

     A 5-27-02 article in Aviation Week describes simulated combat between F-15Cs and Russian Su-30MK fighters, which have thrust vectoring.  They learned this newer Russian fighter now exported the China and India can nearly stop in mid-air, getting into the "clutter notch" of the F-15C's advanced Doppler radar, which detects moving objects.  This disrupts radar tracking for missile guidance. The article noted the maneuver is tricky and the F-15C is still a superior fighter. All new fighters should have thrust vectors, even existing aircraft can be refitted at a low price.