Is there a term that encompasses the overall design of modern fighters (e.g. F-15, F/A-18, F-14, Su-27, Su-30,33,35,37, Mig-29, J-11, etc.), with dual vertical stabilizers, leading edge extensions, dogtooth extensions, very similar nose and canopy shape/profile, air intakes, dual engines, and so on?

I know they each fit into one or more of the air superiority, strike fighter or interceptor categories, but I'm looking for a term (if it exists) which describes and/or encompasses this particular design style. Or is "modern air superiority / tactical / strike fighter" as close as I'm likely to find?

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    $\begingroup$ Maybe by Fighter Generation? $\endgroup$ – Ron Beyer Oct 15 '16 at 15:56
  • $\begingroup$ @RonBeyer, but this is not any particular generation. F-16, Panavia Tornado, Mirage 2000 belong in the same generation as the above and don't share the design features. $\endgroup$ – Jan Hudec Oct 16 '16 at 21:42
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    $\begingroup$ "Modern" fighters? You are listing all 30-40 year old designs (Sukhoi's incremental improvements to the Su-27 names Su-30, 33, 34 and 35 don't really count as new design, nor does the J-11 that is also derived from Su-27). $\endgroup$ – Jan Hudec Oct 16 '16 at 21:46
  • $\begingroup$ I am pretty sure there isn't, because there isn't really any general design worth speaking of. The elements are either obviously preferred for the intended performance, or vary. $\endgroup$ – Jan Hudec Oct 16 '16 at 22:24
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    $\begingroup$ @JanHudec "Modern" is a subjective term. If you want to be particular, then I am talking about fourth generation fighters, I suppose. I'm not sure, precisely; that's why I asked the question. I was looking for an answer to the question more than for criticism of the question itself, fwiw. $\endgroup$ – tommytwoeyes Oct 18 '16 at 0:46

That particular empennage design is called a “four poster” amongst the OEMs. It’s popular because it provides both excellent longitudinal and directional stability with a minimum side profile. As to leading edge extensions, I’ve heard of them referred to by aviation scholars as Leading Edge Extensions (LEXs) or Leading Edge Root Extensions (LERXs) they’re popular because they create a turbulent boundary layer over the inboard sections of the wing and fuselage which provides better high alpha controllability. Canopies, such as those found on the Eurofighter Typhoon or the F-16 are sometimes called ‘blister’ or ‘bubble’ canopies because of their outraised profiles against the OML of the fuselage, providing the pilot unobstructed 360° visibility with a minimum of blind spots, so critical to air to air combat. The serrated or ‘dog tooth’ edges of panels are done to minimize the radar cross section around panels or skin joints.

I don’t know if there’s a particular name for such a fighter configuration, save that for that kind of a performance requirements and flight envelope, it just seems to work very well. Similar to Bill Sweetman’s analysis in his article How the 747 Got Its Hump, given certain criteria and other demands on designing and building an airplane, this is just the best solution to the problem of designing a large twin engine fighter airplane. It’s an open ended design so there’s no ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ answer here; it’s just certain solutions work better than others.

They don’t always follow the mold though. Take Lockheed’s F-22 in comparison to Northrop’s F-23 design. The YF-22 was a stout, little chunky, conventionally styled twin fighter with stealth characteristics, while the Northrop YF-23 had a trapezoidal planform with smooth, voluptuous curved surfaces and a large pelican tail with twin all moving ruddervators. Both aircraft excelled at what they did; a high speed low observable air superiority fighter but seemed to come to very different conclusions. While the F-23 lost the contract, its design philoophy did not go unnoticed. The Sukhoi design bureau seemed to draw very similar layout conclusions in the development of their Su-50 stealth fighter. The same is true of the F-35 vs the F-32 aircraft. LMACO’s entry was very conventional and the Boeing jet was an ungainly, unconventional delta wing design with a pelican tail, laid out largely for simplicity and ease of manufacture (which didn’t work out!).

  • $\begingroup$ But there were grave differences between the jets- f35 did everything for cheaper and with no reconfiguration, while the f32 was subsonic, had to have some parts replaced in order to go hover/supersonic and was less of a complete package. So the design was not entirely the main reason for selecting the f35, rather the overall specifications. $\endgroup$ – Stan Feb 10 '20 at 7:38
  • $\begingroup$ Eh, cheaper? LMACO lowballed their bid at 200 billion for the R&D plus unit costs in 2002. This rapidly ran away to 391 billion by 2012. So much for a bargain. And technically neither the X-32 or X-35 were very much like their production designs that both companies submitted. $\endgroup$ – Carlo Felicione Feb 10 '20 at 13:35
  • $\begingroup$ A bargain is always in comparison to something :) Agreed on not being cheaper, but they did manage to squeeze more in one demonstrator, while the Boeing demonstrator had to be produced twice- one for the vertical takeoff and landing, and the other one- conventional, supersonic. link- link. I will look up further. $\endgroup$ – Stan Feb 10 '20 at 14:44
  • $\begingroup$ There were two examples of the X-35 as well. On a CTOL capable and the other one STOVL capable. The requirement of the JSF program was for two prototypes. An no, being 200% over budget is NOT a bargain, it’s war profiteering! $\endgroup$ – Carlo Felicione Feb 10 '20 at 17:18
  • $\begingroup$ I think that your comment is unfortunately irrelevant and subjuctive, no offense, about war profiteering. And please send references regarding the JSF program requirements and where its noted to have 2 prototypes. $\endgroup$ – Stan Feb 10 '20 at 17:45

I can try and answer this question by referring to 2 angles of approach. The first one is the demand, and this has to correspond with the basic laws of physics- meaning- today, we would want an aircraft that is capable of Mach 2, stealth, can achieve such and such turn radius by let's say, 30 AOA, carrying such and such armament, etc.

The second approach would be evolution. Just like in nature- they look that way because they evolved that way in order to achieve the demands noted above while trying their best by fighting the laws of physics. a fish didn't become a bird in 1 day, same as one engineer decided one morning that he/she is gonna build the F22, just because he figured out the numbers.

It's a long process of trial and error. For example- Jet engines need air, hence the big intake if front. They need yaw control- so they have a fin (1 or 2, depending on the characteristic of the aircraft in high AOA, like in the F15- that has 2, simply because if it had 1- it wouldn't have met any air during high AOA maneuvers and enter a spin very quickly). The F16 has 2 lower fins in order to compensate for the loss of airflow on the rudder in these situations. Phantoms were shot down a lot because the cockpit was like a tank- they couldn't see anything. F-16- almost 360 field of view. F-35- less outside view because first- they don't need to see a lot outside their screens, and second- to maintain a more streamline contour of the whole body for stealth. Leading-edge extensions look that way because they produce more lift and maneuverability, and nothing more.. As the physicists found during tests. As in every industry- all fashions go together with what works (same for evolution)m and progress slowly to a better result.

As for my opinion, I don't think that if you need a fast maneuverable aircraft- we will not see very different designs in the near future unless there is some breakthrough in flow mechanics or propulsion science. It's only a methodology to look at this subject, and it's progressing all the time. I never heard an including name for them though :)

  • $\begingroup$ " Leading-edge extensions look that way because they produce more lift and maneuverability, not more.." <-- something's missing there... $\endgroup$ – FreeMan Feb 10 '20 at 14:34
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    $\begingroup$ not more, meaning- nothing more than their intention. Should I say- "and no more"? $\endgroup$ – Stan Feb 10 '20 at 14:45
  • $\begingroup$ That makes perfect sense now that you've explained it, unfortunately, I didn't read tat into it the first time. Maybe the extra . was confusing me - leading me to believe it should have been ,. and that there was supposed to be something between the comma and period. $\endgroup$ – FreeMan Feb 10 '20 at 15:33
  • $\begingroup$ Maybe "and nothing more.."? $\endgroup$ – Stan Feb 10 '20 at 15:35

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