In the past, we used thin, delta-shaped wings (ogival wings) such as those on the Concorde.

These wings can be used up to mach 2.2. Due to high fuel consumption, these wings are no longer used commercially. However, why can't they be used on fighter aircraft?

  • $\begingroup$ If you go to the images link on this google search, you will see there are a lot of fighter planes that do use this design (if I understand your question correctly): google.com/… $\endgroup$
    – Jae Carr
    Jul 22, 2015 at 17:37
  • $\begingroup$ fighters need to be maneuverable over fast. $\endgroup$ Jul 22, 2015 at 17:39
  • 6
    $\begingroup$ Aircraft design is a compromise. What seems important evolve in time. In the past, speed over mach 2 were important, today it is less important than having a polyvalent aircraft with a good maneuvrability both at low and high speed. $\endgroup$
    – Manu H
    Jul 23, 2015 at 15:18

3 Answers 3


Yes, it is. It was used on 2nd generation designs already mentioned by habu, and it is returning now in the 4.5th generation, now with canards:

Eurofighter Typhoon:

Eurofighter Typhoon line drawing.svg

JAS-39 Gripen:

JAS-39 Gripen

Dassault Rafale:

Dassault Rafale version.svg

And occasionally without too:

HAL Tejas:

LCA Naval 1.jpg

And most of the other designs, while having horizontal tail surfaces, are not really far from that layout either:

Mig-29 (Su-27 looks very similar and all the newer Russian fighters are derived from either of those two):


F-18 Hornet:

Orthographically projected diagram of the F/A-18 Hornet.

The F-22 and F-35 with their negative sweep trailing edge are more of an exception, their layout being governed more by requirement for lower radar cross-section than aerodynamics.

  • 2
    $\begingroup$ F-22 and F-35 wings are considered trapezoidal, not delta. And I read somewhere (some magazine I think) that trapezoidal wings have better aerodynamic performance, especially in high alpha. They cause less drag. $\endgroup$ Jul 23, 2015 at 19:15

The delta wing was, in fact, very widely used in fighter designs of the mid-late 50s, 60s, and early 70s. The Mirage series (even the latest models) and their derivatives, the MiG-21, the F-106, and the A-4 are some of the more iconic designs to have used the wing.

However, as time went on, shifting philosophies on aircraft design, along with technological and manufacturing advancement meant that the speed and acceleration attainable with Delta wings could be reached by other means and manufacturers were free to work with other types of wings that don't suffer from the Delta's weaknesses.

  • $\begingroup$ Mirage series, F-106 and A-4 are all true deltas without horizontal tail. But MiG-21 has horizontal tail. If you count that as delta, you should count almost all fighters. $\endgroup$
    – Jan Hudec
    Jul 22, 2015 at 19:37
  • $\begingroup$ @JanHudec - i've always understood the "delta" moniker to refer primarily to the wing, regardless of the stabilizer configuration. Your point, however, does stand in that even after many designers moved away from the classical tailless "delta" configuration, "cropped deltas" and certain elements of the "delta" configuration still show up in a lot of the 3rd, 4th, and 4.5 gen fighters. $\endgroup$
    – habu
    Jul 22, 2015 at 20:57
  • $\begingroup$ Actually, 4.5 gen fighters returned to classical tail-less deltas. A bit cropped so they can have wingtip hardpoints, but they are deltas. $\endgroup$
    – Jan Hudec
    Jul 22, 2015 at 21:05

Taking what has already been said and talking it in a different direction… All military equipment design goes through an evolution based on who you think your enemy is, how you think they might attack you, and the systems and tactics with which you intend to counter that attack.

There was a time when having the fastest possible interceptors produced the best possible likelihood of intercepting an incoming bomber before it posed a nuclear threat to a populated or strategic area. But many thinkgs have changed.

  • The era of the overhead strategic bomber dropping a nuclear gravity bomb over its target is gone. Changing the role of the bomber profoundly changes the role of the interceptor, which profoundly changes the need for maximum speed.

  • The role of the cruise missile has changed the way bombers deploy weapons. even my fastest interceptors will likely arrive just in time to find an empty bomber.

  • The attack role—whether that is a tactical attack or a deep strategic strike, has become much more important in military planning, and that often means low radar observability is far for important than speed.

  • Radar and satellite capabilities to detect (and more importantly confirm) enemy bomber launch sequences has improved to the point where I have more time to get to interception points. I may know your bomber has taken off hours before it first encounters my surveillance radar.

  • The role of the anti-aircraft missile, and the performance of those missiles has evolved, in terms of speed, autonomy, threat resistance… My interceptor can launch from farther away, subs or missile cruisers can be placed strategically in times of escalating tension, etc. Land-based SAMs have evolved profoundly.

  • The likelihood of a strategic conflict and its unique need for interception has largely given way to the much higher likelihood of a very different kind of war. The US and Europe have shifted priorities away from prioritizing border aerial interception and toward global force projection, in the form of robust attack capability.

This list could keep going, and if we brainstormed, we’d come up with at least 5 or 6 more reasons why the mission of bomber interception has changed in a way that has relieved some need for speed. Put all these reasons in a blender and they all contribute to a change in aircraft design.


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