NationStates Jolt Archive

Building A Fighter Tutorial: For Beginners

Space Union
02-05-2006, 00:14
Building a Fighter Tutorial!

By: Space Union and Juumanistra


Over my past year on NS, I've seen myself go from someone who knew little about aircraft design to someone that can craft a decent flying contraption. We've all had our share of failure and success in the aerospace business and with the new influx of aircraft designers, Juumanistra and I decided that NS needed an aircraft tutorial. Of course, this meant that we had to include all the different aircraft types like fighters, bombers, cargo, electronic warfare, attack, close air support, and etc. That would be nice but it would be so general that we doubted it would help anyone much. So I decided on a coin flip between the two most popular designs in NS: fighters and bombers. The fighter won the toss (fighter = heads; bomber = tails on a standard US quarter dollar).

In this tutorial, we will try and help you create a specific fighter and go through all of the stages in the design process. ‘Manufacturing’ includes designing the airframe, selecting the electronics, choosing the bad-boy engines you want, and of course deciding its performance. This tutorial will constantly evolve so please stay with us as we fix any problems and if you happen to know a lot about aircraft designs or anything related to that, please add or fix anything in this tutorial that you see fit. Thank you and we hope this helps you in your first step in a much larger world.

We will say this a couple of more times throughout the tutorial, but we might as well give the heading now. Some of the stuff here might not be very accurate (particularly specs) but we are doing this for the sake of simplicity. Our goal was not to create a guide that only people with advanced knowledge of aerospace engineering would know while the average NSer would think "huh?". So for that reason, we simplified things and did some short-cuts (like the fuel fractions) so that people had a starting point. They are not accurate for the folks that have RL jobs in this area, but they are great for beginners and something they can use. So please, consider this before commenting on particular section's accuracy or depiction. Thank You.

For this tutorial, this fighter will be a conservative design, but that doesn't mean that you can't think out of the box. Something novel but properly researched and implemented just might make you the envy of your competitors. Admittedly, parts of this introduction to fighter design are not very detailed. This is, after all, an introduction not a doctoral seminar in aeronautics! We tried to simplify the material for the beginners among us, but we may have accidentally over-simplified certain topics. Our apologies, be polite in your suggestions and we'll try to fix it as best as possible.

One thing to know before reading this guide is that you should at least have a basic understanding of aerospace terminology like what a wing, cockpit, or anything like that. If you don't know what a term means, go to or do a google search with "Define: blah". And if neither way works, just ask here and Juumanistra and I will answer your question. And one more thing, feel free to skip and look at what sections you need to, you don't have to read the entire tutorial if you only need help in the Propulsion section. You may read each section independent of the while. Still, reading a little more wouldn’t hurt, and this tutorial may actually teach you something new.

Fighters - What are they?

Fighters. There are few among us who have not envisioned themselves within the cockpit blasting our way through the stratosphere or tearing along mere feet from the deck off to ruin some poor devil’s day. They perform most of the air combat missions, performing a multiplicity of tasks. They are also the performers in aerobatic shows. These agile and small aircraft emerged in World War I to counter enemy spotter planes that would occasionally drop grenades or modified mortar bombs on friendly trenches. Air combat rapidly evolved from the initial pot-shots with revolvers and rifles to the inclusion of machine guns that would tear through those early aircraft with ease. Armies and factories churned out loads of these agile birds in an attempt to best those of the enemy. They started out as agile biplanes, but ever increasing weights, speeds, and structural demands led to the monoplane. These birds emerged from those early days of the Sopwith Camel and the Albatros to the piston-engined glory of the P-51 Mustang as well as the current stealthy F-22A Raptor that will dominate air combat for years to come. But their mission remains the same: kill enemy fighters.

Fighters may fall into several categories. There are interceptors, fighter-bombers, air superiority/dominance fighters, multi-role combat aircraft, V/STOL planes, and carrier-based fighters among many others. Each type does a different thing. Interceptors such as the MiG-25 and MiG-31 are designed to kill enemy bombers and AWACS, striking fast and from great distance. Air superiority/dominance fighters like the Su-27 and F-22 engage and destroy enemy fighters from either long range or in short range dogfights. Fighter-bombers like the Tornado and the F-15E perform tactical strike missions against enemy formations and choke points, or strategic interdiction missions against key enemy assets for which the use of strategic bombers might be deemed “uneconomical.” Multi-role or ‘swing’ fighters such as the F/A-18, Rafale, and MiG-29 can perform a multitude of tasks. The first thing you want to ask when designing a fighter is "what do I want it to do?" Do you want it to dominate the skies or start mass chaos in the enemies’ bomber fleets? In this tutorial, we will go with the traditional air superiority fighter. It will be designed for nothing else than totally and utterly decimating enemy aircraft. This fighter will be called the TF-1, which stands for Tutorial Fighter #1.


When it comes to designing an aircraft, I always think of an aircraft having two parts: the write-up and the specification or the hard facts. While the write-up provides the muscle behind your design, the specifications are the skeleton that provides its structure. Once the base structure is established, the rest will (hopefully) be easy.

The following format is generally the minimum and basically what I use for all my fighters:

Total Net Thrust:
Empty Weight:
Maximum Take-Off Weight:
Minimum Fuel Weight (0.25):
Maximum Fuel Weight (0.35):
Limit Per/Number of Pylon(s):
Normal Payload:
Maximum Payload:
Normal Combat Weight:
Thrust-to-Weight Ratio:
Combat Range:
Ferry Range:
Operational Ceiling/Altitude:
Maximum Altitude:
Cruising Speed:
Supercruising Speed:
Maximum Speed:
Crew (List):

We will be using this format for the TF-1.

Type: The “Type” category describes what the fighter’s primary role. Although fighters may perform many roles besides their primary mission, that fundamental tasking decides the aircraft’s shape and consequently its capabilities. The TF-1 is to be an air superiority fighter, so this category will read: "Advanced Air Superiority Fighter." I usually put “advanced” to boost sales.

Length: The length of an aircraft is the measure from its nose to its tail. The measurement should be taken at the greatest extremities. For instance, the nose might have a probe attached to it, while the tail control surfaces, such as the horizontal stabilizer on the F-22A Raptor, might extend beyond the engine nozzles. Length is typically a factor of aerodynamic necessity and volume requirements. There is no magical formula to figure out length, but RL fighters provide a good basis. Since this is an air superiority fighter, I'll base the length off the F-22 Raptor, which is 19 meters roughly. But you have to remember that since this is NS, you will likely have your aircraft packed with more stuff, which means more room. The final length of the TF-1 is 24 meters then to be safe.

Wingspan: The “Wingspan” category is another dimension category. Wingspan is simply the measure from wingtip to wingtip. The longer the wingspan, the more lift is generated. Unfortunately, that is where simplicity ends. Wingspan and length determine aspect ratio (wing length by wing chord) and wing area as well as wing loading. A long thin wing, such as that on most airliners, offers economical cruising at altitude but little in the way of maneuverability and high-speed performance. Comparatively long thin wings do offer good performance at low level because the small wing area provides little gust response, and are favoured by older dedicated strike aircraft (A-6, F-105, Buccaneer, Tornado). A broad wing with a long chord and a swept leading edge (front edge of the wing), such as that on the F-15, are superb for maneuverability at altitude by offering great lift performance and speed, but are not well-suited to low altitude flight because of the high gust response that gives them such great maneuverability at altitude. Short thin wings, like those on the F-104 Starfighter or the MiG-25, are for dedicated high speed, high altitude aircraft – interceptors and reconnaissance aircraft, primarily – with little concern for maneuverability.

For a fighter like the TF-1, what you want is speed and maneuverability over lift, so the wingspan should be fairly small. Wingspan is another category that you base off of RL aircrafts, most likely the same one that you based your length off of. Going with the F-22 Raptor, it has a wingspan of 13 meters, so the TF-1 considering the other factors will have a final wingspan of 15 meters.

Height: The “Height” category is the last of the dimension categories. It is the measure from the ground to the tallest point on the aircraft, usually the vertical stabilizers. Like the length and wingspan, the height should probably be based off another RL fighter, the same one you based off for the previous two categories. In the TF-1's case, that would be the F-22 Raptor. The Raptor's height is 5 meters, but considering the TF-1's design goals and such it will be a bit larger. The TF-1's height is 6 meters.

Propulsion: The “Propulsion” category is the next category in the specs. The type of aircraft you are designing determines the propulsion you will use. In this section, you note the type and number of engines your aircraft employs and the thrust they generate. Generally, the more powerful the engine, the more massive – heavy and large – it will be. Thrust ratings are typically determine at static settings, that is, at ground level and standard temperature and pressure levels on a fixed structure, and frequently include the use of an afterburner or reheat. Dry or military ratings mean the thrust the engine generates without use of an afterburner. In the case of the TF-1, we will be using two TJE-1-2006s, which are rated at 55,000 lbf or about 25,000 kgf (ca. 245 kN) each.

Total Net Thrust: “Total Net Thrust” refers to the total thrust provide by all of your aircraft’s engines. For the TF-1, it has two 25,000 kgf engines meaning that its total net thrust is 50,000 kgf.

Empty Weight: “Empty Weight” is probably the single most important category in your entire specification outline. It establishes such things as the aircraft’s thrust-to-weight ratio and wing loading that determine your bird’s maneuverability and acceleration, hence its ability to survive. Since the weight of various components (such as the landing gear, oxygen kits, etc.) will likely not be known to you, you will have to base the empty weight off a RL fighter. You should use the same fighter you based your dimensions on, so the TF-1 will use the F-22 Raptor. The Raptor's empty weight is 18,000 kg, so because the TF-1 is larger and has more equipment on board it should have an empty weight of 22,000 kg.

Maximum Take-Off Weight: The Maximum Take-Off Weight (MTOW) is the measurement of how much an aircraft can weigh while still be capable of taking off. MTOW unlike Empty weight can actually be found using a formula. The formula as follows: Empty Weight x 2.5 = Maximum Take-Off Weight. In the TF-1, 22,000 kg x 2.5 = 55,000 kg. This formula is courtesy of Omz222, who actually taught me this a long time ago, so thank you.

Minimum Fuel Weight: The Minimum Fuel Weight (MiFW) is a category based off of the MTOW category. MiFW is simply the amount of fuel that an aircraft has to have to accomplish its job and have a decent range. To figure out the MiFW, there is also a formula. The formula is: MTOW x 0.25 = MiFW. 0.25 is the ratio for fuel to weight. That means at the very least, 25% of the weight of an aircraft at MTOW should be fuel. Using this formula, we do 55,000 kg x 0.25 = 13,750 kg as our Minimum Fuel Weight.

Maximum Fuel Weight: The Maximum Fuel Weight (MaFW) is the other category based off of the MTOW category. The Maximum Fuel Weight is how much fuel an aircraft can carry at its maximum. The formula is: MTOW x 0.35 = MaFW. 0.35 is the ratio of fuel to weight for the aircraft. The maximum amount of fuel an aircraft can carry is 35% of its weight at MTOW. Using this formula, we do 55,000 kg x 0.35 = 19,250 kg as our Maximum Fuel Weight.

Limit per/number of pylon(s): The Pylon category is one that might confuse some newbies when it comes to designing aircrafts. It is actually quite simple in the fact that it only describes how many external pylons/hardpoints or internal stations or bays your aircraft possesses along with how much each pylon or station can individually hold. Since the TF-1 is intended as a stealthy aircraft, I have opted for internal weapons bays, with 8 possible stations in two weapons bays with four stations per bay. Externally, there are with four hardpoints on each wing to which pylons might be attached along with two stations on the belly of the fuselage for a grand total of 10 external hardpoints pylons. Now how much each station or pylon can hold depends on its location (wingtip versus fuselage) and situation (internal or external). The internal ones can hold 1,000 kg each while the external ones can hold 2,000 kg each. But note this does not mean that you can stuff your internal bays with 8,000 kg worth of ordnance because there is a size limit; you have to consider the bay’s dimensions. More will be explained in the Weapons/Armament section.

Normal Payload: Normal Payload describes how much an aircraft can hold internally. That means that weight-wise, how much ammunition or munitions it can carry inside its bomb bays. For the TF-1, it has 8 pylons which can carry 1,000 kg each. That means weight wise, the bomb bays can carry 8,000 kg worth of weaponry and that is the TF-1's Normal Payload.

Maximum Payload: Maximum Payload describes how much an aircraft can hold internally and externally. This means that weight-wise, how much ammunition or munitions it can carry inside its bomb bays along with on its external pylons/hardpoints. For the TF-1, it already carries 8,000 kg internally and since it has 10 pylons externally, each able to carry 2,000 kg worth of ammunition, it can carry 20,000 kg worth of ammunition outside. Together, it carries 28,000 kg worth of weapons as the TF-1's maximum payload.

*I would like to note this is theoratical. If the wing was unbreakable, this would be the amount of payload you could fit. But in reality, that much weight would sheer and rip off your wings. So do not go and actually say that's how much your aircraft can hold. It will likely be 1/2 of that or less.

Normal Combat Weight: An aircraft's Normal Combat Weight (NCW) is how much it weighs on a standard combat sortie for its particular mission. It can be calculated using a formula that follows: Empty Weight + Maximum Fuel Weight + Normal Payload = Normal Combat Weight. Using this formula, it is 22,000 kg + 19,250 kg + 8,000 kg = 49,250 kg as the TF-1's normal combat weight.

Thrust-to-Weight Ratio: The Thrust-to-Weight ratio is one of the most important figures that a fighter needs to score high in for it to have truly exceptional performance. This figure can be calculated by the following formula: Thrust/Normal Combat Weight = Thrust-to-Weight Ratio. For the TF-1, it is 50,000 kg/49,250 kg = 1.01/1 as the thrust-to-weight ratio. This is a good since you want at least a 1/1 ratio for this to be able to be called a real fighter.

Combat and Ferry Range: Combat and Ferry Range are two categories that describe the ranges of your aircraft. The Combat Range is how far an aircraft can go on Normal Combat Weight while Ferry Range is how far an aircraft can go with no weapons and droppable fuel tanks. To find these two values, you should first try and find the Combat Range. There is no set formula for this so you will have to base it off other fighters. The TF-1 will base it off of the F-22 Raptor. Its combat range is 1,800 km. The TF-1's combat range is far bigger in turn because of its higher amount of fuel carried. The combat range for the TF-1 is 2,200 km. The Ferry Range is easier to calculate and you only need the Combat Range. Multiply the Combat Range by 2.7 and that will be your Ferry Range. So for the TF-1, the Ferry range is 5,940 km.

One important thing to remember is that if your engines are massive, you'll probably have a higher fuel consumption than smaller engines so your range will decrease. Take this into account when figuring out your range, because you might be able to hold more fuel than another fighter but you will have bigger engines which will result in a leveling out of the range.

Operational/Ceiling Altitude and Maximum Altitude: The Operational and Maximum Altitude describe how high an aircraft can fly in the sky. The Operational Altitude is how high an aircraft flies on a standard mission or service ceiling of the aircraft while the Maximum Altitude is how high an aircraft can fly but can't climb faster than 100 m/s afterwards. To figure out both values, you generally have to guess or compare with other fighters. The F-22 Raptor has an operational altitude of over 50,000 ft so the TF-1 will have an Operational Altitude of around 60,000 ft while the Maximum Altitude should be a bit higher, I'd say 70,000 ft for the TF-1.

Speed: The speed categories: Cruising, Maximum Supercruising, and Maximum Speed are some of the most important parts of your aircraft specification outline. These three tell how fast an aircraft moves in the sky. The first one, Cruising Speed, tells how fast an aircraft moves without afterburners. For the TF-1, the cruising speed is around Mach 1.5, this is what we call supercruise since the TF-1 doesn't need to use its afterburners to go supersonic. The next category is Maximum Supercruising speed. The Maximum Supercruising speed of an aircraft is how fast it can go with economical use of its afterburners. This usually stays under Mach 2, so the TF-1 has a Maximum Supercruising speed of Mach 1.9. Finally the last one is Maximum Speed, or how fast an aircraft can go with full afterburners lighted. For the TF-1, the maximum speed would most likely be Mach 2.6, with its structural make-up. The nearer you go to Mach 3, the different your aircraft’s structure will have to be to withstand those speeds.

Crew: The Crew Category is how many people an aircraft has in it. For a fighter, that usually is one or two people. For the TF-1, since it is an air dominance fighter we will go with a one-seater aircraft as the TF-1A but then there is always the TF-1B, which is the two-seater version for training and combat purposes. The two-seater usually either has a co-pilot or Radar Intercept Officer, who fires the weapons and manages the systems. Make sure that you list which one you will have in your two-seater so people know. Also make sure to list that an aircraft has two different models for seating if this is applicable to your fighter.

Price: The final category is Price. This is likely the hardest out of all of them too, if you don't have experience and you will probably be hit with this if you’re new, even experts can sometimes mess this up. Price can depend on a lot of things ranging from your choice of engine, material, types of systems, and so on. Comparing can do you so little in this one since a fighter may be similar to a RL one but may use different materials. But we will go with a RL comparison anyways. We will stick with the trusty F-22 Raptor, which has a current price tag of around $120 million (not sure exact but around there). For the TF-1, considering its use of more advanced stuff in about everything, I would label its price tag at $155 million, to be safe.

Now that you've seen how we've reached the values for each category, here is the filled out outline:

Type: Advanced Air Superiority Fighter
Length: 25 m
Wingspan: 15 m
Height: 6 m
Propulsion: 2x TJE-1-2006 rated at 25,000 kgf each
Total Net Thrust: 50,000 kgf
Empty Weight: 22,000 kg
Maximum Take-Off Weight: 55,000 kg
Minimum Fuel Weight (0.25): 13,750
Maximum Fuel Weight (0.35): 19,250
Limit per/number of pylon(s): 8 internal; 10 external (4 on each wing; 2 on fuselage)
Normal Payload: 8,000 kg
Maximum Payload: 28,000 kg
Normal Combat Weight: 49,250 kg
Thrust-to-Weight Ratio: 1.01/1
Combat Range: 2,200 km
Ferry Range: 5,940 km
Operational Ceiling/Altitude: 60,000 ft
Maximum Altitude: 70,000 ft
Cruising Speed: Mach 1.5
Supercruising Speed: Mach 1.9
Maximum Speed: Mach 2.6
Crew (List): TF-1A - 1 (Pilot); TF-1B - 2 (Pilot; Copilot)
Price: $155 million


The first thing you have to do when you create the TF-1 is to make its airframe. The airframe of the fighter is what the aircraft looks like, what it’s made out of, and other external features of the aircraft. We'll start out with the airframe's construction and material. Most fighters these days are made out some fancy stuff like composite materials but in most fighters, the first material is metal. Metal is still used on aircrafts because for one thing it is more common, economical, and thermal-fatigue wise it is better. On many of my fighters, I generally use an alloy of aluminum like aluminum-titanium or aluminum-lithium as my main construction material. The reason is that these alloys have excellent characteristics when it comes to aerospace needs like strength, weight, flexibility, and fatigue. For the TF-1, we will be using aluminum-lithium as our alloy of choice. For more info on aluminum-lithium or Li-Al go to this link: (

The aluminum-lithium will be used to create the fuselage, control surfaces, parts of the wing, and other sections. But aluminum-lithium is not the only material used on the fighter, we will be using composite material too. This comes in the form of carbon fiber-reinforced plastic (CFRP). CFRP is a high-performance composite material that can be applied to aircraft surfaces that need extra strength or need weight reductions. The only downside of CFRP is that it is not the cheapest material and therefore its uses remain limited. Other materials that can be used on the aircraft are steel, titanium, nickel, or whatever. The final composition of the TF-1 will be 68% aluminum-lithium; 15% CFRP; 12% titanium; and 5% nickel. In real life, there are usually far, far more variety in the materials needed for an airframe, but for gameplay purposes we usually only say a few.

The next part designing an airframe is picking what the aircraft will look like. What an aircraft looks like generally depends on what its purpose and design features are. Do you want it to go real fast? Do you want it to be stealthy? Do you want it to have a high lift-to-drag ratio? Some of these contradict each other so you can't expect to have a high-speed aircraft and have it still be stealthy or have an aircraft armored against SAMs (let’s say you could) go Mach 3. Fighters are usually designed based on compromise of performance to get the best all-around fighter. It may not excel in speed but it probably is stealthier than faster aircrafts and it may not be armored but it is a hell lot faster than those flying tubs. To keep things simple and conservative were going to design the TF-1 to be moderately stealthy, Mach 2+ capable, and pretty agile. To achieve these specifications, you can do a number of things. For your stealth needs, you can make sure that your aircraft is smooth and without right angles. An agile fighter will have a tri-surface onfiguration and will have artificial stability. This basically means that it has a set of two canards, strake delta wings, and finally two horizontal stabilizers in the back, while aircraft controls would be computer controlled. Now the problem is that canards are generally big reflectors of radar waves, though, this can be slightly solved by coating it in RAM but you won't be as stealthy as you would be without canards. Canards also tend to reduce your top speed, so it is best to decide whether speed is more important than agility. On the other side, canards help in making a fighter agile and adding lift to an aircraft, something that is desired because delta wings generally produce little lift at the benefit of great performance at high speeds. The TF-1 goes with a tri-surface configuration with canards, strake delta-wings, and horizontal stabilizers, but the airframe is designed extra smooth to make sure that the radar cross-section (RCS) is small.

Another decision for your aircraft’s design concerns the vertical tail surfaces. How many should your aircraft have, should they be at right angles to your axis of flight (strictly vertical), canted (slanted), or should you have none at all. One tailfin is fine for subsonic or low supersonic jets, but once design speeds exceed Mach 2 single tail designs become less common. As one approaches Mach 2, stability concerns demand larger tail surfaces. Twin tail surfaces need not be nearly so long or tall as single tail surfaces at those speeds so they do not generate nearly so much drag. Several modern fighters use single tails (Eurofighter Typhoon, the Dassault Rafale, and the Saab Gripen) whereas others, notably the F-22 and the Su-27 and variants, use a twin-tail design. Single tail designs are always strictly vertical.

Strictly vertical stabilizers ensure stability and generally avoid turbulence generated by either the horizontal tail surfaces (if any) or the wing’s trailing edge surfaces. Canted vertical stabilizers can deflect radar returns in contrary directions to make an aircraft far stealthier. Finally having no vertical tail helps in that it not only helps make the aircraft far stealthier, it also makes the aircraft more unstable and therefore more maneuverable. At speeds greater than Mach 2, an aircraft without tail surfaces, whether located on the tail itself or on the wings, becomes a missile or perhaps simply uncontrollable. To keep the design conservative, I decided on just going with the slanted vertical tails for the TF-1 to make it a bit stealthier.

Finally the last decision (at least for the tutorial) is choosing whether you want one seat or two-seat fighter. A one-seat fighter has only the fighter pilot while a two-seat fighter has one pilot and either a radio intercept officer (RIO) or a co-pilot. One-seaters are generally the most common fighters for air superiority roles because they are cheaper, you really only need one pilot to hit other fighters, and they are generally smaller (slightly at least). Two-seat fighters on the other hand are used primarily for training purposes, though; they can be used as combat aircrafts like in air-to-ground roles or even in air superiority similar to the F-14. The two seats is appealing because it provides another set of eyes to watch out for any threats and you can divide your workload, making it more likely you will survive in combat. The downside of two-seaters is that they are more expensive, bigger, and there is a slight risk of a pilot arranging to hit something but the per!
son in charge of the weapons doesn't pick up on it and misses a kill. For those reasons along with tradition, the TF-1 goes with a single-seat option as the main production model, though, there is also the TF-1B, which is a combat capable trainer.

And there you have it, the TF-1's design and airframe has been completed. Its time to begin the engines!


The next part of designing the TF-1 is choosing the powerplant or engine of the fighter. Like a Viper, a fighter needs an engine to move and give it the performance it needs to kill the enemy. The more powerful an engine, the better its performance but also the heavier it is. So there are trade-offs even when choosing an engine. The first thing to do when deciding on propulsion is to decide, do you need two or one engines? A one-engine fighter is probably the most common in the world (with fighters like the F-16) because they generally require less maintenance and are smaller and often cheaper. The downside of course is that it has less power than two-engine aircraft and if its engine goes out, it’s done for. A twin-engine fighter is appealing because it provides more power, and it is safer if one engine burns out. The downside is that twin-engine fighters are larger, more expensive, and require more maintenance. Since this is an air superiority fighter, it needs as much power as it can get for a great thrust-to-weight ratio, hence the TF-1 will go with a twin-engine configuration.

The next part of deciding what you want to power the TF-1 is to decide what type of powerplant you want. A jet engine works by ingests air through the inlet at the front of the engine. This air goes through a series of very high speed, multi-bladed windmills (compressors) that compress the air to increase its combustibility. Beyond the compressors, fuel is injected into the air mixture and subsequently ignited. The hot gas then flows through the turbines, which power the aircraft’s many systems, and finally exits through the nozzle as exhaust that propels the aircraft forward. This is the basic principle on how jet engines work, but there are still different types of jet engines. The following are possible choices for a fighter: turbojet, turbofan, ramjet, and pulse jets. Each one has its advantages and disadvantages which are listed below:

Turbojet: This was one of the first jet engines to be used on a fighter. It follows the basic jet engine principle and is one of the simpler designs.
Advantages: Powerful and simple.
Disadvantages: Bad fuel economy which causes range to suffer because of missing design features that improve efficiency.

Low-Bypass Turbofan: The turbofan jet engine is the most widely used jet engine type used on modern fighters. The low-bypass jet engine works by having some of the air sucked in pushed to the outside of the core and mix with the final exhaust.
Advantages: Quieter than other jets; more efficient fuel wise resulting in longer range
Disadvantages: Complex and more expensive.

Ramjet: The ramjet engine is the simplest and one of the first designs out there. It is consider very simple in that it has no moving parts, and can give you speeds from Mach 0.8 to Mach 5.
Advantages: Extremely simple; very efficient at high speeds; lightweight.
Disadvantages: Requires initial high speed to work; very inefficient at slow speeds due to compression ratios; difficult to operate at wide range of airspeeds.

Pulsejet: Pulsejet is one of the less common types of jet engines in the world. It was used mostly in World War II by the Germans in their V-rockets. It works by having air put into a combustion chamber and then shut before igniting the air-jet fuel before letting more air in. This creates the pulse effect.
Advantages: Very simple design
Disadvantages: Noisy; inefficient because of low compression ratio

Each engine has its advantages and disadvantages. But in the end it is the low-bypass turbofan jet engine that wins. The reason is that is best overall in design. Although it is more complex and expensive, it also is much more efficient than the other types, which results in better performance and range, both of which are vital in an aircraft design. This is the same logic that most aerospace giants use when choosing engines for their fighters. Hence why there are no or only a few modern jet fighters (from the West at least) that still use turbojet engines. The F-15, F-16, F-22A, F/A-18E/F, F-14, F-35, Eurofighter Typhoon, Gripen, Rafale, and others all use low-bypass turbofans. So the TF-1's configuration is a twin set of low-bypass jet engines. But there's more you have to do still.

Picking your propulsion system is not just about picking what type of arrangement or type of engine you want, it also comes down to what engine you want. Sure you might have a turbofan but what are the turbofan’s specifications? For the TF-1 both of its engines will be called the TJE-1-2006 meaning Tutorial Jet Engine #1 in 2006. After picking what fancy name you want along with a possible nickname, you have to actually figure out the stats. The most basic stat for a jet engine is its thrust. The thrust is the amount of force in pounds (lbf) that an engine produces. If an engine produces 35,000 lbf that means it produces the force equivalent to 35,000 lbs. Picking how much thrust you want can get a bit tricky. The thrust depends largely on the size, weight, and performance you want to achieve in the fighter. You don't need specific figures yet but generally what you would think your fighter will be like. The TF-1, I imagine at least, is likely to be a large fighter that is pretty heavy but still have great performance. For that reason, we will need engines with a good amount of thrust. We will say that the TJE-1-2006 has a thrust of 55,000 lbf. This basically means that the fighter will have a total gross thrust of 110,000 lbf. The reason why you want such large amounts of thrust is because you want to make sure that your aircraft, especially fighters, have a thrust-to-weight ratio of at least 1:1. The higher the better. By having a ratio of 1:1, your aircraft is capable of climbing faster and taking off at a far higher angle of attack (AoA), meaning that it can go into a vertical climb faster from take-off. But at the same time, you don't want too much thrust. Remember, the more thrust an engine produces the larger and heavier it is. This means that it will make the fighter heavier and also take up space that could be used for other stuff like bigger radar and other electronics. So you have to find the right balance, hence why you should base your thrust on your aircraft not your wants.

With the evident of more and more advanced engines, there are two significant other features of many new engines: afterburner and supercruise capabilities. Afterburner is a feature common on almost every fighter. It is basically the idea that you add basically another chamber to the end of a jet engine. This chamber basically dumps some jet fuel into the exhaust, adding more thrust to the total output. This is used by many fighters to go real fast and sprint for a short period of time at high speeds. But it comes at a cost. Afterburners eat fuel extremely fast and therefore most aircrafts can only sustain afterburning for a few minutes at the most because of how much fuel it eats away. Afterburners are usually only used when a fighter is trying to escape from other fighters and therefore a vital component for fighters to have access to. The TF-1's TJE-1-2006 is outfitted with afterburning capability when needed, allowing it to reach a maximum speed of Mach 2.5. Afterburning also served another purpose. It used to be that fighters could only achieve supersonic speeds while using afterburners but with the advances in engine design and thrust capability, this is no longer the case. The ability to reach supersonic speeds without an afterburner is called supercruise. This is basically that a jet fighter doesn't have to light up its burners to go supersonic or sustain them. With supercruise, jets can break the sound barrier without them and therefore they can fly fast for a long time, something that is vital in the real world during combat situations. Supercruising at high speeds requires an engine that produces a lot of thrust, hence why only few aircrafts in RL are capable of it (most notably the F-22A Raptor). The TF-1's TJE-1-2006s are fully capable of afterburner thanks to the amount of thrust they put out, allowing them to go up to Mach 1.9 on sustained supercruise.

Another very important part of fighter designs in the evident of thrust vectoring. Thrust Vectoring is something many of us heard, it increases the maneuverability of planes substantially. This is done by redirecting exhaust to a certain degree/direction. The improvement in maneuverability and performance is illustrated in the X-31, F-22A Raptor, Su-30MKI/35/37, F-16 VISTA, F-18 HARV, F-15 ACTIVE and many other fighters. There are three types of thrust vectoring (TV): 2D, 3D, and 4D. 2D is the most basic type of TV in which the nozzle of the aircraft can move in two directions, up and down. This is employed on the F-22 Raptor and the Su-35. The next type of thrust vectoring is 3D TV. This is similar to the 2D except that it can move on three axes: up-down, left-right, and diagonal. This is found on the Su-37 and F-15 ACTIVE. Finally the last one is 4D which is the most advanced. 4D TV can move in all directions or 360 degrees. Currently there are no aircrafts in RL that can do this but there are experimental nozzles in development that will one day be capable of doing this. When choosing which nozzle to go with, each one has its advantages and disadvantages. The less dimensional the nozzle the less mechanical problems and likely failures while the more dimensional a nozzle is capable of doing, the more maneuverable it is. In taking this in thought, I've decided to put a 4D thrust vectoring control (TVC) on the TF-1 because of the agility it requires.

It is important to note that with increased power comes increased weight. The best thrust-to-weight ratios currently attainable by engines are on the order of 9-10:1, which means that each TJE-1-2006 has a mass of about 2500 kg. Thrust vectoring has a weight penalty as well.

We have just completed all that is needed in the way of the TF-1's propulsion needs. It now has an airframe and a set of engines to go on with it. Externally it is finished but now its time to work on its internal workings: the avionics/electronics section.


When most people are asked "what is the most important part of a fighter?" many answers come up. The majority of answers depend on the time period. For example, back in the early days before electronics came around, maneuverability was considered the most important thing for a fighter. During World War II, this changed to speed. From the late 1950s and particularly with the advent of digital electronics, the emphasis shifted to the subtler components within the aircraft rather than simple brute force. Electronics enable an aircraft to see beyond a person’s physical limitations, to detect the enemy without being detected, and to kill your enemy and escaped unharmed. That's why it is vital that the TF-1 has the best electronics available.

Before you start picking what components and other fancy stuff you want on your aircraft, you want to pick what type of architecture/design you want for the fighter's control system. From the basic control mechanism of early aircraft to the most recent and complex, these are mechanical, hydraulic, fly-by-wire, and fly-by-optics systems. The mechanical system is basically what you found on the World War I and most of the World War II aircrafts. The pilot pulled a lever to control the aircraft and the aircraft's pulleys and gears did their job to adjust control surfaces to do what the pilot pulled. It was pretty simple and straightforward and was largely successful in those days because propeller-driven fighter aircraft typically did not require more complex systems to operate. As the top speeds of fighters increased from just over 100 mph to over 400 mph between 1918 and the 1940s, compressibility effects – when aircraft approach the speed of sound – became more pronounced and aircraft far less controllable by conventional means.

As fighters grew in size, weight, and capability, it became necessary to introduce hydraulic control mechanisms to reduce the amount of work pilots needed to exert on the controls to perform maneuvers. Hydraulic fluid from reservoirs within the aircraft travelled at high pressure through pipes to move control surfaces using a series of pumps, valves, and actuators. Along with artificial feel mechanisms in the control stick, the pilot could control an aircraft with relative ease, allowing him/her to fly at high speeds. Unfortunately, hydraulic systems were space and weight intensive, insufficiently responsive, subject to battle damage, required extensive maintenance, and could be terribly leaky. Also, purely hydraulic systems could not allow pilots to take full advantage of the results from relaxed stability experiments that were then being tested.

Engineers conceived of fly-by-wire control in the 1950s as a means of operating high performance aircraft whose demands exceeded their crews’ capabilities. Interceptors like the CF-105 Arrow would be faced with closure rates well into the thousands of miles per hour, requiring the aircrew to act impossibly quickly to shoot down enemy bombers. Other designers began experimenting with relaxed stability. Aircraft operating at very high speeds or with relaxed stability require computers to assist the pilot in controlling them, and since the digital revolution and miniaturization reduced the size and weight of electronics substantially, it became possible to replace much of the old hydraulic system with electrical cabling that would command the hydraulically operated control surfaces to perform the necessary tasks at much higher speeds than any unaided pilot could.

Early on, copper wiring was considered too expensive and inefficient for most fly-by-wire aircraft. Fiber optic cables, transmitting light signals rather than electrical impulses, allow for transfer of data at higher speeds and greater efficiency than ordinary copper wires. The result is that the aircraft's reflexes and responses are far faster. This is a very basic outline of how each system works. After reviewing each system, the most advanced and capable would be the fly-by-optic system for the TF-1. The fly-by-optics allow for the least amount of weight while offering the best performance and response capabilities.

*Note: I know that I didn't include other stuff like the two-types of fly-by-wire, the two-circuit hydraulic system and such but this is NS not real life and I do not wish to bore or overcomplicate stuff. This will also include the rest of the electronics write-up.

The next part of electronics is setting up the internal set-up for the TF-1. We want the TF-1 to be set-up in a fashion so that pilot has all the information he needs in a collective format. Most fighters’ cockpit layout is designed so that it has a couple of LCD screens that project information to the pilot. The screens don’t have to be made out of LCD and ones that I use are made out of OLED which are thinner, lighter, and clearer. A rule of thumb when designing the inside of your cockpit is to make sure that the pilot is not bombarded by tons of information and may instead concentrate on the situation at hand. Instead most new fighters use a thing called integrated avionics. This means that all the information collected from the various sensors are all compiled onto one display for the pilot to digest in the swiftest of scans. How one goes on to do that depends on what they want. For the TF-1, I've decided to go with a tri-screen configuration. This means that there will!
be one main screen and then two secondary screens. The main screen compiles all the sensors into an elaborate map of the entire battlefield. The other two screens are for other purposes like showing health of the aircraft along with communications and other information. This ensures that the pilot doesn't have to go on and sort through tons of information to find what he's looking for, it’s all there for him. A final note is that some fighters also feature a touch-screen capability, something that the TF-1 has built in it. Touch-screens allow the pilot to get rid of knobs, buttons, and switches and instead just click on options on his screens to access whatever he needs. This is primarily done on one of the secondary screens.

With aerial combat changing drastically all the time, new technologies are constantly needed. In World War II, within-visual range (WVR) was the most used type of combat because planes relied on the use of machine guns or machine cannons to shoot down enemy aircraft. But with the advent of missiles and advances in electronics, this is no longer the case. Most air-to-air combat may now occur at beyond visual range (BVR). To counter this threat, many fighters are equipped with a helmet-mounted system in which a helmet alerts the pilot on targets and lets him target them through it. The first such system was found on the MiG-29, but it was quite primitive in only having a cross hair that let you target an enemy. The more advanced US version is called JHMC. It allows the pilot to target, track, and fire a missile at along with offering other abilities. The TF-1 features a similar system to the US version in which it allows the pilot to target, track, and fire at an enemy without even looking at them. Not only does this system allow the TF-1 to have superb capabilities, but it also makes formidable in the WVR arena. As long as the TF-1 has highly maneuverable missiles, it need not always hunt for an advantageous position but may fire whenever its weapons are in range.

*Rest will be up soon.


One of the most important parts of a fighter's design is to make sure that it is capable of delivering a payload of weapons to an enemy. In the case of a fighter, its job is to make sure that its missiles strike an enemy. But before you can do that, a fighter needs to have a place to store these missiles. The most common place on most fighters is an internal weapons bay. The internal weapons bay is a place that you can put missiles and bombs in. When you need to drop a bomb or fire a missile, a weapons bay door opens and the weapon is released to do whatever it needs to. Most fighters have a two bay configuration with each bay having a set of four stations inside. Stations are where the weapon is connected to the aircraft. This configuration will be used for the TF-1. Each pylon will be able to hold the standard 1,000 kg worth of bombs or weapons. But that's not the only place to put weapons. You can have external pylons on the wings and/or fuselage of the aircraft. For the TF-1, we will go with four pylons on each wing along with two pylons on the belly of the aircraft. Each pylon is capable of holding 2,000 kg worth of munitions.

Another part of an aircraft's weapons capabilities is its cannon. The cannon is an internal weapon that allows the TF-1 to hit other aircraft at close range where missiles are not effective. Although missiles have replaced guns as the fighter’s primary weapon and most air combat will likely occur at BVR, a gun provides that additional element of security once all of the missiles have been spent. Still it is better safe to be sorry and having a gun is one of those things. For the TF-1, we will use a 25mm Phantom autocannon housed in the nose. It will be able to fire at a rate of 3,200 rpm and house 1,000 25mm bullets.


Congratulations! You have successfully gone through a step-by-step procedure and learned how to build an air superiority fighter from scratch! This achievement alone should make you proud of yourself. Most people don’t have the attention span to read all of that. The end product of this tutorial is not only a fighter that is capable of going neck to neck with some of NS’s best fighters, but also a new designer that can build his/her own planes successfully. You may have begun as some random newbie, but hopefully after reading this guide you will hopefully understand the NS aerospace world with a better grasp and become the next great designer. Both Juumanistra and I wish you best of luck in your success in not only aerospace design but also in all military branches. Hey, maybe you’ll be the guy writing a tutorial a later on how to build bombers or something. You never know…

Other Credits:
Wikipedia and
Isselmere (did extensive editting of the tutorial and fixed a whole bunch of stuff)
Space Union
02-05-2006, 01:17
Amazonian Beasts
02-05-2006, 01:18
Very long as you're an MT or PMT guy.
Space Union
02-05-2006, 01:30
Very long as you're an MT or PMT guy.

Thanks and this is for MT. :)
02-05-2006, 02:49
Very nice. Tagged for reference. I'm going to be using this... alot. :)
02-05-2006, 03:00
Nice job!
Space Union
02-05-2006, 03:15
Thanks guys. :)
02-05-2006, 03:29
Already posted my praises for this on the Draftroom, but I'm gonna make a few notes here that people should also know about a few things that SU's gonna add later
1. Stealth: The idea of reducing any feature that may allow some type of monitoring station to track the aircraft
-Stealth can be nice to have, specially if you use SEAD and can be a nice surprise just in general. Stealth does not make an aircraft invisible to radar, It just reduces it's trackability. Stealth should be used where needed, but not everywhere. If you've got a high speed intercepter, then your speed will effectivley make your stealth useless, so it's just a costly addition that should be applied in moderate amounts and not to every single aircraft that you have, as I learned the hard way, that if you try to stealth an An-225 sized aircraft, all you'll do is reduce it's RCS of that to a B-52, which still has an incredibly large RCS.
2: RCS (Radar Cross section) The signature of the aircraft on a radar.
- Stealth aircraft like the B-2 and the F-117 have low RCS's as their missions require them to be stealthy, so their surfaces have radar absorbent materials on them and certain patterns in order to distort, absorb, and just in general play havoc with the enemy's radar view of your plane.
3. Internal Bays vs Pylons, which is better?
-As SU noted on his aircraft above, his aircraft has internal bays in his fighter, which act like the bays in a bomber, just much smaller. These bays can be nice for stealth and for adding more weapons loadouts. I prefer to save internal space for things like fuel and engines and more avionics, leaving my weapons on external pylons. Using external pylons tends to be less maitenance intensive than the internal bays, as you don't have to open and close a door every so often. Keeping with the KISS policy, as I said earlier, I prefer external pylons, but each man to his own...

Overall, as I stated earlier, a great guide for aircraft design, thoughtfully done and pretty accurate...
02-05-2006, 03:48
Not a bad one for a beginner, but the plane you created is a bit of a godmode. 28,000kg of ordinance? 2,400km combat radius? Mach...2.6 was it? You can't really just add to all the numbers of an existing plane, and get a working one thats better. Besides, how do you get

Like I said, not a bad tut, but you might have wanted to just taken an existing aircraft, shown how everything applies, and the choices, etc.
Space Union
02-05-2006, 20:32
Not a bad one for a beginner, but the plane you created is a bit of a godmode. 28,000kg of ordinance? 2,400km combat radius? Mach...2.6 was it? You can't really just add to all the numbers of an existing plane, and get a working one thats better. Besides, how do you get

Like I said, not a bad tut, but you might have wanted to just taken an existing aircraft, shown how everything applies, and the choices, etc.

Hm... I seem to differ on that stance. I'll address some of your concerns, 1st 28,000 kg is Maximum Payload. Maximum Payload is theoratical in terms of actuality and describes how much it would be capable of carrying. In theory, that is how much an aircraft can hold but in real life theirs the problem of physics were the sheer weight would snap off the wings. I apoligise if I haven't already put that noted, but that was what I intended to say. 2ndly, uh 2,400 km radius is pretty feasible. There are RL aircrafts that have more range (F-14 and F-35). I took into account how large the aircraft's engines were so I decreased the range from nearly 3,000 km to that. 3rdly, Mach 2.6 is not that hard to achieve. To be honest, when designing an aircraft even experts base a lot of their stuff off of RL aircrafts. This is especially true for beginners.

Please note that I have had this tutorial reviewed by Isselmere, who I'm (we all in fact) pretty much can safetly say knows a ton on aircrafts.

And thanks Illior for posting that up. When I get some time on the weekend, I'll update that. :)

EDIT: Lol, I didn't put that waver on for the Maximum Payload. Editted that.
02-05-2006, 21:54
Grim Reaper Raptor
Type:jet fighter
Length: 200 feet
Wingspan:39 feet
Height:39 feet
Propulsion:mach 5
Total Net Thrust:mach 15
Empty Weight:200 lbs
Maximum Take-Off Weight:250 lbs
Minimum Fuel Weight (0.25):198 lbs
Maximum Fuel Weight (0.35):290 lbs
Limit Per/Number of Pylon(s):5
Normal Payload:4
Maximum Payload:20
Normal Combat Weight:290
Thrust-to-Weight Ratio:60-40
Combat Range:200 yards
Ferry Range:59 yards
Operational Ceiling/Altitude:2,897 feet
Maximum Altitude:3,009 feet
Cruising Speed:500 miles
Supercruising Speed:599 miles
Maximum Speed:725
Crew (List):1 pilot
Price:$239 million each
02-05-2006, 21:55
Nice idea........ I'm thinking of designing some Wing In Ground effect planes soon (Russian~Erakoplane? My russian ain't good), and shall be using this extensivly.
02-05-2006, 21:56
Wicked awsome!
Warta Endor
02-05-2006, 22:19
Very, very , VERY usefull! I'll probably use this one! Can this get stickied?

Warta Endor TAG
Space Union
02-05-2006, 22:33
Thanks guys. :) Also Ceon, you might want to recheck those stats as they really are..... well not correct.
03-05-2006, 00:05
And thanks Illior for posting that up. When I get some time on the weekend, I'll update that. :)

Lol... I just put that up at 10 at night... I'll PM you the more refined version later tonight with some more info and better layout....
Space Union
03-05-2006, 01:27
Thanks, though, the problem is that I have no more room to add anything because of the damn 50k character rule which I barely am under. :(
03-05-2006, 02:04
Thanks, though, the problem is that I have no more room to add anything because of the damn 50k character rule which I barely am under. :(
Lol... that's why you bumped it...
(AKA Edit the Bump so that way you have another 50K to add onto...)
Space Union
03-05-2006, 02:33
Yeah I'm going to split the entire tutorial in two when I get some time. :)
Space Union
03-05-2006, 04:36
Bump for the night.
Space Union
03-05-2006, 12:37
04-05-2006, 01:42
(Here's the refined and edited version for ya SU, and all I want is a credit...)
1. Stealth: The idea of reducing any feature that may allow some type of monitoring station to track the aircraft
-Stealth can be nice to have, especially if you use SEAD and can be a nice surprise just in general. Stealth does not make an aircraft invisible to radar, It just reduces its traceability. Stealth should be used where needed, but not everywhere. If you've got a high speed interceptor, then your speed will effectively make your stealth useless, so it's just a costly addition that should be applied in moderate amounts and not to every single aircraft that you have, as I learned the hard way, that if you try to stealth an An-225 sized aircraft, all you'll do is reduce it's RCS of that to a B-52, which still has an incredibly large RCS.
2: RCS (Radar Cross section) The signature of the aircraft on a radar.
- Stealth aircraft like the B-2 and the F-117 have low RCS's as their missions require them to be stealthy, so their surfaces have radar absorbent materials on them and certain patterns in order to distort, absorb, and just in general play havoc with the enemy's radar view of your plane. Planes like the F-16, F-18, B-52 and a lot of other planes have much higher RCSs due to each having protruding extremities and specific parts that radar waves are able to bounce off of easily. Planes like the F-22, B-2, and F-117 all have their exteriors designed so that they either scatter the radar waves so they can’t be returned or they absorb them.
A specific and rather major point in comparison of stealth is the design of the inlet for the F-22’s engine and the inlets for other fighters. The F-22 uses an “S” shaped duct to not allow for radar waves to bounce off of internal parts in the engine and return to the radar station. The F-22’s inlets are also surrounded by radar absorbent materials placed at key locations to further reduce the return of the radar waves. Fighters like the F-14 use less complicated straight ducts allowing the air to flow through without having to follow an odd pathway. This ends up making for less maintenance, but creates a much larger and more specific radar return making the aircraft easier to ID.
3. Internal Bays vs Pylons, which is better?
-As SU noted on his aircraft above, his aircraft has internal bays in his fighter, which act like the bays in a bomber, just much smaller. These bays can be nice for stealth and for adding more weapons load outs. I prefer to save internal space for things like fuel and engines and more avionics, leaving my weapons on external pylons. Using external pylons tends to be less maintenance intensive than the internal bays, as you don't have to open and close a door every so often. As I stated earlier though, external pylons increase the RCS of an aircraft making it less stealthy, which is the appeal of an internal bay: less RCS. Keeping with the KISS (Keep it simple, stupid) policy, as I said earlier, I prefer external pylons for my normal aircraft but I do use internal bays on stealth fighters to decrease RCS.
4. Tracking by infrared
This is tracking an aircraft by the amount of heat the aircraft gives off, or how hot it is. Ways to reduce this include heavily insulating the engine, mixing fresh air with the combusted air to cool it off as it exits the aircraft and by using materials in the construction and design that disperse of heat easily.
It is not always the best idea to use these in an aircraft, especially for a low maintenance, low cost, simple fighter. Each adds to the cost of the aircraft, and creates more systems that can fail. Infrared reducing systems are good to have on a stealth aircraft, which is most likely already a higher costing aircraft than most normal ones, and you wouldn’t want one part of your aircraft to be non-observable while the others are, but if you do, you might as well scrap the whole design for your stealth fighter.

Space Union
04-05-2006, 02:14
Thanks, I'll add all that when I get around to do the editting. :)
04-05-2006, 12:23
woww now i can build a decent aircraft
Space Union
04-05-2006, 20:24
Space Union
14-05-2006, 03:45