Indian Air Force

17 Common Terminologies Related to Fighter Jets Which You Should Know

Fighter jets have always been an exciting thing to know about. Its name only, excites a defence enthusiast to know more about them. Today in this article, we will discuss some common terms and terminologies related to fighter jets…………………. Let’s start………………….


The tactical movement of a fighter aircraft is known as maneuvers. It is of two types:-

  • ACM (Air Combat Maneuvering)
  • BFM (Basic Fighter Maneuvering)

Drop Tanks-

It is an external fuel tank carried by a fighter jet. It is used to increase the range of fighter jets. It is fitted just under the deck or wing of a jet. During flying the fuel in the drop tanks is consumed first, and only after its consumption, the internal fuel is used.

Two Drop tanks of Tejas

During any emergency, a pilot has an option to drop these tanks to decrease their weight and increase their speed. Hence, it is called drop tanks. It has certain disadvantages which include:-

  • It reduces maneuvers of a jet
  • It decreases weapon carrying capacity of a fighter jet
  • Also, it increases aircraft radar signature


A hardpoint is also known as a weapon station, is a location under the airframe of an aircraft, which is designed to carry weapons and load including rockets, missiles, drop tanks, etc.

Rafale fighter jet has 14 hard points. In the given picture it is carrying 12 missiles.

For an aircraft, it is denoted by a number. Like an aircraft may have 7/11/14 hardpoints. Here the number denotes that an aircraft can carry 7/11/14 rockets or missiles under its wings at one time.

Service Ceiling-

It is the maximum height that an aircraft can achieve. It is also the maximum attainable altitude of an aircraft.

For example, the service ceiling of Sukhoi Su-30MKI is 17,300 meters or 56,800 feet.


Avionics are the electrical or computer systems that are used in an aircraft. It includes systems for communication, navigation, control monitoring, aircraft flight control systems, weather systems, flight recorders, etc. Totally, it is the brain of an aircraft.


It is a type of system which allows a pilot to control its aircraft with electronic signals. It reduces the role of conventional manual flying by a pilot. The electronic signals are transferred through the wire. Hence, it is called a fly-by-wire system.


It is a type of structure which are located under the wings of an aircraft. It is used to attach weapons, rockets, bombs, drop tanks, etc., to an aircraft.

Here the structure from which the missile is attached is called a pylon

Sonic Boom-

It is a sound associated with shock waves, which are created when an object travels through the air faster than the speed of sound. The sound is very similar to the sound of an explosion.

Shock waves due to Sonic Boom, generated by a fighter jet

It is created by a supersonic aircraft when it travels at a speed faster than the speed of sound i.e. 1234 km per hour.

The effect of shock waves can only be felt in the conical region

A sonic boom does not occur only at the moment an object crosses the speed of sound, and neither is it heard in all directions emanating from the supersonic object. Rather the boom is a continuous effect that occurs while the object is traveling at supersonic speeds. Its effects can only be observed if an observer comes in contact with the conical shape of shock waves that are generated during its flight.


If you have ever observed a Sukhoi Su-30 or Rafale fighter properly, then you must have noticed a small wing-like structure in front of these fighters.

Fighter Jets
Canards in Russian Sukhoi Su-30

Canards are small horizontal wings, that are located in front of the main wing of an aircraft. It is mainly used to provide extra lift, control, and stability to a fighter aircraft when it is flying at a lower speed i.e. at subsonic speed. It also increases the flight maneuver of an aircraft. Most of the aircraft including 5th Generation aircraft (Except Chinese J-20 so-called 5th Generation aircraft) don’t use canards, as it decreases the stealth features of an aircraft.


It is a type of military feature which makes an aircraft difficult to be detected by radar i.e. an aircraft that cannot or less likely to be detected by radar. It depends on many things like size, shape, color, etc,. of an aircraft. Aircraft which cannot be tracked by Radar are known as stealth aircraft.

You can read more about Stealth features. Click here


It is used to denote an aerial battle between fighter jets at close range.

Combat Range-

It is the maximum distance which an aircraft can fly, carrying its maximum fuel and load including weapons.

The combat range of HAL Tejas is 1,850 km.

Ferry Range-

It is the maximum distance which an aircraft can fly, carrying its maximum fuel, without any load.

The ferry range of HAL Tejas is 3,200 km with two external drop tanks.

Combat Radius-

It is the maximum distance that an aircraft can fly from its base with maximum fuel and load, and perform its objectives like bombing and return to its base safely.

The combat radius of HAL Tejas is 500 km with only its internal tanks.


If you have seen a fighter aircraft taking off from the runway, then you must have observed a red heat flame is coming out of the nozzle of jet engines. This flame is due to the extra thrust generated by its afterburner.

It is an additional component that is located between the turbine and nozzle of a jet engine. An afterburner releases extra fuel to the hot gases which are coming out of the turbine. It is used to increase thrust produced by the engine and to achieve supersonic speed in a short span of time.

Fighter Jets
An aircraft is using its afterburner during its take-off

It uses a lot of fuel for extra power generation. The American F-16 consumes 11 liters of fuel per second in its afterburner. Therefore, most of the planes use afterburner occasionally. For example- a fighter jet uses its afterburner when taking off from the short runway of an aircraft carrier or during a high-speed maneuver in a dogfight.

G-Suit or Anti G-Suit-

It is a special type of flight suit worn by fighter pilots. It is designed to prevent blackout in pilots, caused by the higher g force during flying.

In normal life, we experience 1g force on ourselves. Our weight is a variable quantity and depends on the value of g (As Weight=mass × g). Our heart actually works against gravity and pumps blood throughout our body including our brain.

During flying, the value of g rises from 1g to almost 8 or 9 g on a pilot body. Due to the higher value of g, extra gravitational force starts acting on our body, and our heart can’t pump blood to our body and brain. And during flight blood gets pooled in lower areas of our body. Due to this, pilot brain gets deprived of blood and results in black out, which is dangerous for both a pilot and his aircraft.

Fighter Jets
g-suit or Anti g-suit

A g-suit resists the effect of high gravity on a pilot. It is designed in such a way that it contains many void spaces which are filled with compressed air. The compressed air, press firmly on the abdomen and legs, thus restricting the draining of blood away from the brain during periods of high acceleration. And prevents pilots from losing their consciousness.

g-suits are also fire resistant and contain many pockets which can be used by a pilot to keep navigation map and other flight papers.

Thrust to Weight Ratio (TWR)-

The TWR is a ratio of thrust generated by the engine ( particularly in Newton) to the weight of an aircraft (In Newton). It is a good indicator to measure the maneuverability of an aircraft.

TWR is a variable quantity as thrust varies with throttle setting and the weight of an aircraft varies with fuel burn and payload changes.

Hence, the standard value of TWR is calculated by using maximum static thrust at sea level divided by the maximum takeoff weight of an aircraft.

Aircraft with a thrust-to-weight ratio greater than 1:1 can pitch straight up and maintain airspeed until performance decreases at a higher altitude. TWR of some prominent fighter jets are:-

Fighter Jets
First column- Name of a fighter jet. Second column- TWR. Third column- TWR in different scenarios.

So, these were some common terminologies used or are related to fighter jets.

If you know some other related terms about a fighter jet, you can tell us about them in the comment section.

Thank you

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Aniket Kumar

A defence aspirant, desiring to gain as much knowledge as possible by writing blogs because knowledge increases by sharing.

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