I was wondering how ailerons work on fighter jets. I came across this after hours of research.

Source: https://forum.flitetest.com/index.php?threads/airplanes-in-real-life.63837/#lg=post-580884&slide=0

Is that how fighter jet ailerons work? Is their a better picture or image that would be better. If there is please post it to help me understand. I've researched for so long on this subject with no avail except this picture that helped me understand it. Thank so much!

  • 3
    $\begingroup$ Can you tell what you don't understand? That might help to find something that helps with the points you didn't understand yet. $\endgroup$
    – Pondlife
    Jun 21, 2020 at 22:39
  • $\begingroup$ I don't understand how the linear actuator causes the aileron to move. I found this picture but I know its a bit too simple and its not the full process. Im looking for a picture that would explain how this works. $\endgroup$ Jun 21, 2020 at 22:40
  • $\begingroup$ I edited the title to be more precise. As I understand, you are interesting in how they are put in movement, not the other aspects of how it works (e.g. aerodynamics). Feel free to edit again if I misunderstand what you mean. $\endgroup$
    – Manu H
    Jun 22, 2020 at 16:49
  • $\begingroup$ Ok thank you. Im sorry my titles are not clear enough. Im new on the aviation stack exchange $\endgroup$ Jun 22, 2020 at 16:57
  • $\begingroup$ Your question posts two different pictures of different mechanisms and then says "Is that how fighter jet ailerons work?". I think the question could be improved to be more clear as to what you want to know. $\endgroup$ Jul 24, 2020 at 19:33

1 Answer 1


In the lower picture that accompanies the graphic in your link, focus on the elongated figure eight shaped piece. The lower portion is attached to a piston extending from the actuator, and is free to pivot about the attaching point.

The upper portion of this link is fixed to the aileron and the entire part acts as a lever arm. So, when the dark gray piston of the actuator moves left and right, the figure eight lever pivots clockwise or counter clockwise centered on the middle of the upper circle. Since this part of the link is attached to the aileron, it also moves.

The graphic isn’t great, but try to visualize which parts move from my description and let me know if you are still confused.

You typically won't see the actual control horn on full sized aircraft because it will either be covered be a fairing to streamline it, or it will be contained within the thickness of the wing structure.

For example, in small RC models it is common to have an external horn like this:

enter image description here

However, you will generally NOT see a large external actuator like this on a full sized plane:

enter image description here

There simply isn't a need for such a large mechanism on most airplanes, and it would come with a large drag penalty. If extra leverage is needed and the mechanism protrudes beyond the thickness of the wing it will be covered by a fairing like this:

enter image description here

Instead, most designers will try to keep actuators contained within the wing, as in the photos below:

enter image description here

enter image description here

  • $\begingroup$ Hi im still confused about why you dont see the control horn on the aielron on planes. Sorry I replied to this comment very late $\endgroup$ Jul 23, 2020 at 17:55
  • $\begingroup$ @Luke Justin, the control horn is internal, just like in the diagrams you included with the question. Full sized aircraft do not have this part on the outside like RC planes you may have seen. $\endgroup$ Jul 23, 2020 at 22:25
  • $\begingroup$ The figure 8 is the horn... $\endgroup$ Jul 24, 2020 at 1:11
  • $\begingroup$ I know but how do they cover it up on the aircraft? Is the fairing attached to a hinge on the control horn? $\endgroup$ Jul 24, 2020 at 11:34
  • $\begingroup$ It's just contained within the thickness of the wing structure, or there may be a bump to cover it. I don't know how to explain it beyond that. Your diagram is a generic example, aircraft differ somewhat. My best recommendation would be to go look at a real airplane. I don't think it needs to have hydraulic controls to make the point, find a local flight school or airplane museum and ask there. $\endgroup$ Jul 24, 2020 at 14:22

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