Thrust vectoring is used to extend the manoeuvrability of aircraft outside a `normal' flight envelope, by providing (optionally differential) vectored engine thrust, as explored in many previous questions (this and this).

How is the direction of vectoring actually controlled by the pilot during flight? Does a flight control computer automatically interpret "traditional" control surface inputs under extreme conditions and move the nozzles appropriately to create the desired effect? Or is vector direction a separately controllable interface?

I've noticed in my flight sim of choice, XPlane, that the configuration panel allows the mapping of an analogue axis on my joystick/pedal setup to 1D vectored thrust. I've no idea if this is representative of any real fast jets, but if it is, it seems that this approach could create a lot of extra "pilot workload" -- given that it's another one (to three!) control axes to be manipulated -- and manipulated at the same time as pulling potentially very aerobatic manoeuvres with little room for mistakes. This seems like a Bad Idea.

On the other hand, it might be the case that independently controlled vectored thrust allows for a wider range of aircraft manoeuvres than that which could traditionally be 'expressed' by control surface movements alone. Giving fast jet pilots the extra workload would, therefore, be worth the risk.

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ On most airfcraft with thrust vectoring, the pilot doesn't even control the aerodynamic control surfaces, so my guess is, she doesn't control the thrust vectoring either. Heck, on modern high-performance jet planes even without thrust vectoring, all the pilot does is express to the computer what she wants the airplane to do and the computer figures out how to do it. You probably wouldn't expect a pilot to control the Flowers Of Steel any more than the Valse des Ailerons. $\endgroup$ Commented Jun 25, 2015 at 18:09
  • $\begingroup$ A long talk about F-22 controls by a test pilot: youtu.be/n068fel-W9I (the gist is that side-stick and pedals tell the computer what the pilot wants and the computer combines all the available control elements to achieve it). $\endgroup$
    – Jan Hudec
    Commented Oct 13, 2021 at 18:32

1 Answer 1


Thrust vectoring isn't controlled by the pilot directly, except being able to turn it on or off in various circumstances. If it is on, the aircraft computers control the vectoring based on external conditions, the state of the aircraft and control input.

  • 2
    $\begingroup$ This. Thrust vectoring is under control of the "fly-by-wire" system present in all such jets, and is utilized to do what the pilot indicates he wants through input on the stick and rudder pedals, combined with information about the aircraft's current airspeed, angle of attack and attitude; thrust vectoring typically only kicks in for extreme aerodynamic maneuvers and/or post-stall maneuvering at low speed or high AOA. $\endgroup$
    – KeithS
    Commented Jun 25, 2015 at 20:36

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .