Polhamus, Edward C. Langley Research Center, National Aeronautics and Space Administration, Hampton, Virginia.
Last reviewed:January 2021
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The slender forward extension of the inboard region of the wing of a combat aircraft used to provide increased lift in the high angle-of-attack maneuvering condition. In contrast to the normal attached-flow design principles, these strakes are built to allow the flow to separate along the leading edge in the high angle-of-attack range and to roll up into strong leading-edge vortices. The illustration shows a typical strake installation and the vortices generated. These are highly stable, and their strong swirling motion creates a lower pressure area on the strake upper surface, resulting in a large incremental increase in lift force known as vortex lift. This vortex lift increases rapidly in the high angle-of-attack range and is less susceptible to the normal stalling characteristics encountered with conventional lifting surfaces. These vortices can also improve the high angle-of-attack lift effectiveness of the main wing panels. This high angle-of-attack lift capability, when coupled with the fact that these slender surfaces are of relatively low structural weight, has resulted in their incorporation as a primary design feature of several modern lightweight and highly maneuverable fighter aircraft. Two examples of the application of vortex lift strakes (sometimes referred to as leading-edge extensions) are the Air Force F-16 and the Navy F-18. See also: Aerodynamic force; Airfoil; Subsonic flight; Vortex; Wing structure
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