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/… $\endgroup$
    – Jay Carr
    Jul 22 '15 at 17:37
  • $\begingroup$ fighters need to be maneuverable over fast. $\endgroup$ Jul 22 '15 at 17:39
  • 4
    $\begingroup$ 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 '15 at 15:18

Yes, it is. It was used on may 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:

JAS39 Gripen.svg

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.

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    $\begingroup$ 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 '15 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 '15 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 '15 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 '15 at 21:05

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