I watched this video of a F-35B performing a flight-hover-flight transition and was pretty impressed by the fact that it was able not only to control pitch and roll (which could be, I suppose, performed by differential power from engine and lift fan) but also yaw — while hovering (at 3:15 in the video).

How does it do that? Bleed air ducts from the engines on the sides of the aircraft? (something alike to thrusters used to control attitude of spacecraft I suppose).

  • $\begingroup$ There aren't any significant forces on the yaw axis, are there? From what I could see, the only forces acting on the F-35 while it hovers are along the pitch and roll axes, both of which have components in the vertical direction. $\endgroup$
    – ironduke97
    Jul 5, 2018 at 7:21
  • $\begingroup$ Oh I see. Thanks @Pilothead $\endgroup$
    – ironduke97
    Jul 5, 2018 at 9:45
  • $\begingroup$ The rear engine not only can point down, but also side to side. In fact it swivels in both left right and back/forward in addition to moving down through a range of 93 degrees (so you can go backwards). So the rear nozzle does not just point down. It reacts VERY quickly to pilot inputs. On takeoffs due to the pilot bouncing around, the control stick is moved around a bit - along with computer control to keep the fighter balanced, you see the rear engine gimbals just like a rocket motor. So it moves around (pivots) just like a rocket motor trying to balance a rocket an that allows twirl/yaw. $\endgroup$ Mar 7, 2019 at 2:29

1 Answer 1


In case of F-35, the yaw control during hover (and transition to forward flight) is provided by the Three-bearing swivel module (3BSM), which forma a part of the Rolls Royce Lift System. As Lokheed Martin notes:

Two roll ducts supplied by engine fan air provide roll control. Yaw control is through swivel nozzle yaw. Pitch control is effected via Lift Fan/engine thrust split.

From codeonemagazine

The three-bearing swivel nozzle, 3BSN, design uses three segments of the engine exhaust duct cut on an angle and joined by two airtight circular bearings. ... The forward and aft segments always stay aligned with one another in the rotational axis. The center segment rotates through 180 degrees relative to them. The third bearing is on the back of the engine aft of the turbine stage and provides the ability to swivel the nozzle thrust axis in yaw at any pitch angle.

Consider the nozzle in VTOL position, like below:


By Tosaka - Made by uploader (ref:見森昭編 『タービン・エンジン』 社団法人日本航空技術協会、2008年3月1日第1版第1刷発行、ISBN 9784902151329, 1), CC BY 3.0, Link

If we hold the aft two segments and rotate only the first one, it is obvious the rear segments will rotate along the engine axis, producing yaw by virtue of its position at the rear. There is a slight associated loss in lift produced, but the Digital Flight Control System can easily compensate for it.

Of course, this method of controlling yaw in hover is specific to F-35. In case of Harrier, the reaction control system had 'puffers' at the tail to provide yaw control.

Harrier reaction control system

Reaction control system, showing pipes and nozzles for engine HP bleed air.; image from harrier.org.uk

In addition to the vectoring engine nozzles, the Harrier also requires a method of controlling its attitude during jet-borne flight, when the normal aerodynamic surfaces are ineffective. To this end, a system of reaction control nozzles in the nose (blowing down), wingtips (blowing up and down) and tail (down and lateral blowing) are fitted to the aircraft.


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