Wonderful Engineering

China Introduces Thrust Vectoring Technology To Its New Fighter Jets For Increased Manoeuvrability

The J-10 fighter from China is now equipped with thrust vectoring controls which allow the jet to perform impossible air maneuvers. The upgrades to the fighter jet were debuted at the Zhuhai Air Show. The Chengdu J-10 Vigorous Dragon is a single-engine fighter which is developed for China’s People Liberation Army Air Force. The J-10 falls in the same category as the American F-16, and both planes were built with Israeli assistance. However, in some technological aspects, the Chinese aircraft is almost fifteen years behind the F-16 platform and further behind from modern fighters like the F-35.

The J-10 has something now which the F-16 doesn’t have, i.e., thrust vectoring control capability which pushes its maneuverability into the stratosphere. The jet can steer its exhaust and allows it to point its nose in one direction and propel in another. Usually, in planes, the course of the engines decide the direction of the aircraft. Engines are pointed forward so that the airplanes go ahead and pilots use the control systems rudders, elevators, flaps, ailerons, and brakes to point the plane where they want to go. The Thurst Vectoring Control (TVC) changes this idea. TVC system reverses the direction of the engine exhaust and makes it possible to travel in other courses where the engine of the plane is not pointed.

This can result into the plane taking a jerk in midair and rising like a dragon or slowing down or even performing some other aerial maneuvers. The computer controlled fly-by-wire technology instantly turns a pilot’s control input into action. A pilot is not required to perform complex calculations to get the plane do what they want it to do. Previously, this trick was done with paddles which pushed into the engine exhaust to change the direction of thurst.

The latest thrust vectoring technology uses a movable thrust nozzle in place of the paddles. Using this tech, the F-22 Raptor can angle its thrust up to 24 degrees up or down. Russia incorporated TVC into the Sukhoi Su-30 and the Su-35. In 2017, the Su-35 performed aerial maneuvers at an airshow on the outskirts of Moscow. Now J-10 from China has also joined the elite club of super-maneuverable fighter jets. There were reports that the Chengdu Aircraft Industry Group in China was working on a TVC exhaust system for the single-engine fighter. A picture of a J-10 with TVC emerged in January 2018, but no formal announcement was made so far.

The TVC equipped J-10B finally made its debut with a movable nozzle. The J-10B at the Zhuhai Air Show performed tight vertical loops, a slow, high angle of an attack roll, a cobra maneuver, and the falling leaf. The question that arises now is where the Chinese TVC will go from here. The US tested this technology in the early 90s but didn’t prioritize it much to add it to some of the later versions of their fighter jets. Perhaps China will also do the same since the latest jets FC-31 and J-20 also do not have TVC in them.