This paper examines the changing role aerodynamic technology plays in the design and development of modern combat aircraft. It reviews several aspects of aerodynamics which contribute to aircraft performance and handling characteristics. It considers the importance of a range of technologies, the contribution each makes to the final integrated solution and comments on the compromises necessary through the design cycle to optimise the overall weapon system, sometimes to the cost of one of the component technologies. The technologies discussed are in no way exhaustive but attempt to encapsulate the breadth of the subject, to illustrate its diversity and to point the way for the future development if aerodynamic technology is to continue to make an important contribution to the design of combat aircraft.
Each of the component technologies are discussed in terms of the contribution it makes, the tools and techniques used to predict, analyse and interpret the technology contribution, and the requirements for the direction of the development of the technology for the future.
Before considering the technologies themselves it is important to understand the environment in which they will be used, which increasingly conditions the manner in which they are employed and suggests the direction for their development.
This paper begins, therefore, by briefly reviewing the changes to the environment in which the fighter pilot operates and the manner by which his requirements, and therefore the specification of the aircraft, are defined before going on to look at the overall contribution each technology makes in the design process.