I have been looking over some pictures of military airplanes, and I noticed that some of the more modern air planes have flaps on the exhaust

These are the flaps on the exhaust

I was wondering if anyone knew what the purpose of the flaps were, and why they are only on modern airplanes

  • 2
    $\begingroup$ By flaps on exhaust, are you talking about thrust vectoring? $\endgroup$
    – Farhan
    Jun 4, 2015 at 18:55
  • $\begingroup$ yes, i am talking about that... $\endgroup$
    – user8732
    Jun 4, 2015 at 18:56

2 Answers 2


Those flaps on exhaust are for thrust vectoring. A simple definition would be:

the ability of an aircraft [...] to manipulate the direction of the thrust [...] to control the attitude [...] of the vehicle

F-22 uses it like this:

[Its] nozzle [...] is the first vectoring nozzle. That means the pilot can move, or vector, the nozzle up and down by 20 degrees.

The gases coming out of the vector nozzle help push the airplane's nose up or down. This vectoring increases the roll rate of the plane by 50 percent, making it much more maneuverable than other fighters.

Thrust vectoring [...] works automatically in response to commands from the pilot.


Adding to the above answer:

These mechanical devises are for thrust vectoring. Their purpose is for super-maneuverability, meaning that the aircraft can maintain pitch and yaw control at extreme angles of attack where other non super-maneuverable aircraft would stall, spin, completely loose control, etc.

This ultimately allows a wider flight envelope and the ability to "push the envelope" further than would be without thrust vectoring.

Thrust vectoring allows a plane to turn harder and faster because, rather than the control surfaces doing most of the work to turn the airframe, the engine exhaust becomes a large component in the vector change, thus reducing the load on the wings and the rest of the airframe. Loading the wings with high g turns is dangerous beyond the flight envelope - the vectoring eases the load and thus widens the envelope. Also, point the nozzles in opposing horizontal directions aids in rolling the aircraft.

Concerning your picture - the F-22 has '2D' thrust vectoring - allowing the exhaust to de deflected up and down over the horizontal axis and controlling 2 dimensions of flight dynamics (pitch and roll). Aircraft such as the MiG-29OVT (below) have '3D' thrust vectoring, allowing control of 3 dimensions of flight dynamics (pitch, roll, and yaw).

enter image description here

I've heard the MiG's nozzles are sometimes referred to as 'flowers of steel' because of the way they open, close, and move, sometimes completely independently of each other.

The video below shows the beautiful 3D nozzles in action starting at 1:40

Video: 3D Thrust Vectoring

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ I'm not sure that 3D means what you think it means.... $\endgroup$
    – CGCampbell
    Jun 4, 2015 at 21:26
  • $\begingroup$ F22 is 1D, Mig is 2D. you can't have 3D vectoring. $\endgroup$
    – Federico
    Jun 4, 2015 at 21:29
  • 5
    $\begingroup$ 3D means what I think it means. @Federico, technically you're right, but that is what it's commonly known as in the military aviation community. My guess is that the engineers settled on this nomenclature because the '2D' raptor nozzles can control 2 dimensions of flight dynamics (pitch and roll) whereas the MiG's '3D' vectoring can control 3 (pitch, roll, AND yaw). $\endgroup$
    – ebrohman
    Jun 4, 2015 at 21:46
  • $\begingroup$ @ebrohman fair enough $\endgroup$
    – Federico
    Jun 5, 2015 at 3:55
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    $\begingroup$ @Federico: The same illogical counting method goes on in redundancy: Triple redundancy means that two more systems are there when the primary system fails. This is actually only double redundancy, but everyone calls it "triple" redundancy. Get over it, i got used to it myself long ago. $\endgroup$ Jun 5, 2015 at 16:01

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