Leading-edge extension

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Aircraft wing leading-edge extensions - annotated Leadingedgeextensions annotated.svg
Aircraft wing leading-edge extensions annotated

A leading-edge extension (LEX) is a small extension to an aircraft wing surface, forward of the leading edge. The primary reason for adding an extension is to improve the airflow at high angles of attack and low airspeeds, to improve handling and delay the stall. A dog tooth can also improve airflow and reduce drag at higher speeds.


Leading-edge slat

Leading-edge slats deployed on an Airbus A318-100 Airfrance.a318-100.f-gugj.arp.jpg
Leading-edge slats deployed on an Airbus A318-100

A leading-edge slat is an aerodynamic surface running spanwise just ahead of the wing leading edge. It creates a leading edge slot between the slat and wing which directs air over the wing surface, helping to maintain smooth airflow at low speeds and high angles of attack. This delays the stall, allowing the aircraft to fly at a higher angle of attack. Slats may be made fixed, or retractable in normal flight to minimize drag.

Dogtooth extension

Dog tooth on the wing of a Hawker Hunter Hawker hunter t7 blue diamond in planform arp.jpg
Dog tooth on the wing of a Hawker Hunter

A dogtooth is a small, sharp zig-zag break in the leading edge of a wing. It is usually used on a swept wing, to generate a vortex flow field to prevent separated flow from progressing outboard at high angle of attack. [1] The effect is the same as a wing fence. [2] It can also be used on straight wings in a drooped leading edge arrangement.[ citation needed ]

Many high-performance aircraft use the dogtooth design, which induces a vortex over the wing to control boundary layer spanwise extension, increasing lift and improving resistance to stall. Some of the best-known uses of the dogtooth are in the stabilizer of the F-15 Eagle and the wings of the F-4 Phantom II, F/A-18 Super Hornet, CF-105 Arrow, F-8U Crusader, and the Ilyushin Il-62. Where the dogtooth is added as an afterthought, as for example on the Hawker Hunter and some variants of the Quest Kodiak, the dogtooth is created by adding an extension to the outer section of the leading edge.

Leading-edge cuff

Experimental drooped leading-edge cuff on an American Aviation AA-1 Yankee DroopedLeadingEdgeCuff01.JPG
Experimental drooped leading-edge cuff on an American Aviation AA-1 Yankee

A leading edge cuff (or wing cuff) is a fixed aerodynamic device employed on fixed-wing aircraft to introduce a sharp discontinuity in the leading edge of the wing in the same way as a dogtooth. It also typically has a slightly drooped leading edge to improve low-speed characteristics.

Leading-edge root extension

Condensation vortex flows along the LERX of an F/A-18 FA18 LEX.jpg
Condensation vortex flows along the LERX of an F/A-18

A leading-edge root extension (LERX) is a small fillet, typically roughly triangular in shape, running forward from the leading edge of the wing root to a point along the fuselage. These are often called simply leading-edge extensions (LEX), although they are not the only kind. To avoid ambiguity, this article uses the term LERX.

On a modern fighter aircraft, LERXes induce controlled airflow over the wing at high angles of attack, so delaying the stall and consequent loss of lift. In cruising flight, the effect of the LERX is minimal. However, at high angles of attack, as often encountered in a dogfight or during takeoff and landing, the LERX generates a high-speed vortex that attaches to the top of the wing. The vortex action maintains the attachment of the airflow to the upper-wing surface well past the normal stall point at which the airflow separates from the wing surface, thus sustaining lift at very high angles.

LERX were first used on the Northrop F-5 "Freedom Fighter" which flew in 1959, [3] and have since become commonplace on many combat aircraft. The F/A-18 Hornet has especially large examples, as does the Sukhoi Su-27 and the CAC/PAC JF-17 Thunder. The Su-27 LERX help make some advanced maneuvers possible, such as the Pugachev's Cobra, the Cobra Turn and the Kulbit.

A long, narrow sideways extension to the fuselage, attached in this position, is an example of a chine.

Leading-edge vortex controller

Leading-edge vortex controller (LEVCON) systems are a continuation of leading-edge root extension (LERX) technology, but with actuation that allows the leading edge vortices to be modified without adjusting the aircraft's attitude. [4] Otherwise they operate on the same principles as the LERX system to create lift augmenting leading edge vortices during high angle of attack flight.

This system has been incorporated in the Russian Sukhoi Su-57 and Indian HAL LCA Navy. [5]

The LEVCONs actuation ability also improves its performance over the LERX system in other areas. When combined with the thrust vectoring controller (TVC), the aircraft controllability at extreme angles of attack is further increased, which assists in stunts which require supermaneuverability such as Pugachev's Cobra.[ dubious ][ citation needed ] Additionally, on the Sukhoi Su-57 the LEVCON system is used for increased departure-resistance in the event of TVC failure at a post-stall attitude. It can also be used for trimming the aircraft, and optimizing the lift to drag ratio during cruise.

See also

Related Research Articles

Wing Surface used for flight, for example by insects, birds, bats and airplanes

A wing is a type of fin that produces lift while moving through air or some other fluid. Accordingly, wings have streamlined cross-sections that are subject to aerodynamic forces and act as airfoils. A wing's aerodynamic efficiency is expressed as its lift-to-drag ratio. The lift a wing generates at a given speed and angle of attack can be one to two orders of magnitude greater than the total drag on the wing. A high lift-to-drag ratio requires a significantly smaller thrust to propel the wings through the air at sufficient lift.

Delta wing Triangle shaped aircraft wing configuration

A delta wing is a wing shaped in the form of a triangle. It is named for its similarity in shape to the Greek uppercase letter delta (Δ).

Vortex generator Aerodynamic device

A vortex generator (VG) is an aerodynamic device, consisting of a small vane usually attached to a lifting surface or a rotor blade of a wind turbine. VGs may also be attached to some part of an aerodynamic vehicle such as an aircraft fuselage or a car. When the airfoil or the body is in motion relative to the air, the VG creates a vortex, which, by removing some part of the slow-moving boundary layer in contact with the airfoil surface, delays local flow separation and aerodynamic stalling, thereby improving the effectiveness of wings and control surfaces, such as flaps, elevators, ailerons, and rudders.

Swept wing Plane wing that angles backwards or forwards

A swept wing is a wing that angles either backward or occasionally forward from its root rather than in a straight sideways direction.

In aerodynamics, lift-induced drag, induced drag, vortex drag, or sometimes drag due to lift, is an aerodynamic drag force that occurs whenever a moving object redirects the airflow coming at it. This drag force occurs in airplanes due to wings or a lifting body redirecting air to cause lift and also in cars with airfoil wings that redirect air to cause a downforce.

High-lift device Wing surface area adjuster, typically for shortening take-off and landing

In aircraft design and aerospace engineering, a high-lift device is a component or mechanism on an aircraft's wing that increases the amount of lift produced by the wing. The device may be a fixed component, or a movable mechanism which is deployed when required. Common movable high-lift devices include wing flaps and slats. Fixed devices include leading-edge slots, leading edge root extensions, and boundary layer control systems.

Leading-edge cuff

A leading-edge cuff is a fixed aerodynamic wing device employed on fixed-wing aircraft to improve the stall and spin characteristics. Cuffs may be either factory-designed or an after-market add-on modification.

Leading-edge slot Anti-stall control surface on aircraft

A leading-edge slot is a fixed aerodynamic feature of the wing of some aircraft to reduce the stall speed and promote good low-speed handling qualities. A leading-edge slot is a spanwise gap in each wing, allowing air to flow from below the wing to its upper surface. In this manner they allow flight at higher angles of attack and thus reduce the stall speed.

Wing fence Fixed aerodynamic dividers attached to aircraft wings to prevent their stalling

Wing fences, also known as boundary layer fences and potential fences are fixed aerodynamic devices attached to aircraft wings. Often seen on swept-wing aircraft, wing fences are flat plates fixed to the upper surfaces parallel to the wing chord and in line with the free stream airflow, typically wrapping around the leading edge. By obstructing span-wise airflow along the wing, they prevent the entire wing from stalling at once, as opposed to wingtip devices, which increase aerodynamic efficiency by seeking to recover wing vortex energy.

Vortex lift

Vortex lift is that portion of lift due to the action of leading edge vortices. It is generated by wings with highly sweptback, sharp, leading edges or highly-swept wing-root extensions added to a wing of moderate sweep. It is sometimes known as non-linear lift due to its rapid increase with angle of attack. and controlled separation lift, to distinguish it from conventional lift which occurs with attached flow.


In aerodynamics, pitch-up is an uncommanded nose-upwards rotation of an aircraft. It is an undesirable characteristic that has been observed mostly in experimental swept-wing aircraft at high subsonic Mach numbers or high angle of attack.

Washout (aeronautics)

Washout is a characteristic of aircraft wing design which deliberately reduces the lift distribution across the span of an aircraft’s wing. The wing is designed so that the angle of incidence is greater at the wing roots and decreases across the span, becoming lowest at the wing tip. This is usually to ensure that at stall speed the wing root stalls before the wing tips, providing the aircraft with continued aileron control and some resistance to spinning. Washout may also be used to modify the spanwise lift distribution to reduce lift-induced drag.

Supermaneuverability is the capability of fighter aircraft to execute tactical maneuvers that are not possible with purely aerodynamic mechanisms. Such maneuvers can use controlled side-slipping and angles of attack beyond maximum lift.

Wing configuration Describes the general shape and layout of an aircraft wing

The wing configuration of a fixed-wing aircraft is its arrangement of lifting and related surfaces.

Leading-edge slat Device increasing the lift of the wing at low speed (take-off and landing)

Slats are aerodynamic surfaces on the leading edge of the wings of fixed-wing aircraft which, when deployed, allow the wing to operate at a higher angle of attack. A higher coefficient of lift is produced as a result of angle of attack and speed, so by deploying slats an aircraft can fly at slower speeds, or take off and land in shorter distances. They are usually used while landing or performing maneuvers which take the aircraft close to a stall, but are usually retracted in normal flight to minimize drag. They decrease stall speed.

Strake (aeronautics) Flight control surface

In aviation, a strake is an aerodynamic surface generally mounted on the fuselage of an aircraft to improve the flight characteristics either by controlling the airflow or by a simple stabilising effect.


Vortilons are fixed aerodynamic devices on aircraft wings used to improve handling at low speeds.

Chine (aeronautics) Sharp angle in aircraft cross-sections used as control surface

In aircraft design, a chine is a longitudinal line of sharp change in the cross-section profile of the fuselage or similar body. The term chine originates in boatbuilding, where it applies to a sharp profile change in the hull of a boat. In a flying boat hull or floatplane float, the longitudinal line of sharp change in cross-section where the bottom plane meets the sidewall, is an example of a chine.

Leading edge Foremost part of a wing or tail surface

The leading edge of an airfoil surface such as a wing is its foremost edge and is therefore the part which first meets the oncoming air.

Leading-edge droop flap

The leading-edge droop flap is a device on the leading edge of aircraft wings designed to improve airflow at high pitch angles. The droop flap is similar to the leading-edge slat and the Krueger flap, but with the difference that the entire leading edge section rotates downwards, whereas the slat and Krueger flap are panels which move away from the wing leading edge when it is deployed.


  1. Effects of Wing-Leading-Edge Modifications on a Full-Scale, Low-Wing General Aviation Airplane, Nasa TP 2011
  2. A Two-seat Gnat Development for the R.A.F. Flight 1959
  3. Green, W. and Swanborough, G.; The complete book of fighters, Salamander, 1994
  4. Lee, Gwo-Bin. "Leading-edge Vortices Control on a Delta Wing by Micromachined Sensors and Actuators" (PDF). American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics. Retrieved 18 October 2018.
  5. Sweetman, Bill. "Sukhoi T-50 Shows Flight-Control Innovations". Aviation Week. Aviation Week & Space Technology. Retrieved 18 October 2018.