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Written by Sabc   
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The control stick of the pilot is traditionally placed in the F-15E, i.e. it protrudes from the floor of the pilot cockpit between the pilot's knees. The height of the stick is 30 inches from the floor - an average male pilot can grab it comfortably with his forearm more or less horizontal. The stick is strictly for the right hand: it is twisted left at about 30 degrees in order to create a comfortable hold. The distance between the ACES II ejection seat and the stick is about 5 inches.


The shape of the stick grip is very ergonomical. It is designed for a gloved right hand (and not for a small one), that's why it is thick and big - it is 8 inches long from the base of the grip to the very top of the stick - looking clumsy for the first glance. There is no wrist rest, the pilot has to actively hold it during flight, however the pilot can hook his thumb on the base of the auto acquisition switch (see picture below) thus letting his hand rest a bit. The following photo illustrates my smaller than average hand (holding a Suncom F-15E Talon stick, which is an exact replica of the F-15E stick) against the size of the stick.


The F-15E utilizes a semi-fly-by-wire flight control system, so stick input is fed to the system electronically, no mechanical links exist between the stick and the flight control surfaces. The stick moves the control surfaces in a traditional way, i.e. longitudinal stick movement results in horizontal stabilator deflection (from a level flight, pulling the stick back makes the aircraft raise its nose and climb, pushing the stick forward makes the aircraft lower its nose and descend), while lateral stick movement results in adverse aileron deflection (pushing the stick left makes the aircraft roll left, pushing the stick right makes the aircraft roll right).

Directly underneath the stick grip, a huge grey box is mounted, this is the stick force sensor box, which senses the force the pilot deflects the stick with and feeds this input to AFCS (Automatic Flight Control System). It does not mean that the stick senses only deflection force and does not move in itself (like in an F-16) - it can be moved around in the space available between the knees of the pilot. Stick deflection translates to electronical signals for the AFCS and by moving the stick the pilot mechanically moves parts (linkages, rods, cables, etc.) which lead to the control surfaces as well. Thus the F-15E has double steering control: if AFCS fails, the jet still can be steered mechanically and vice versa, if the mechanical steering system fails, AFCS is still there to control the jet. In normal operation they work together for a smooth, fully optimized flying experience.

Since F-15E control was designed to utilize a full-blown HOTAS system, the grip itself hosts lots of buttons and switches, see picture below.


- Castle Switch
- Trim Switch
- Auto Acquisition Switch
- Paddle Switch
- Nosewheel Steering Button
- Gun Trigger
- Weapon Release Button

The functions of these switches and buttons are the following:

Switch Functions

1 - Castle Switch: This switch has lots of functions. Tipping it in a direction scrolls the image on the MPD (or MPCD) in command to the given direction. The castle switch can also be used to put an MPD ( MPCD) in command: to do this the castle switch should be pressed down first momentarily, then it must be tipped in the direction of the MPD ( MPCD) to be put in command: tip left for left MPD, tip right for right MPD, tip aft for MPCD.

When tipped in conjunction with the coolie hat on the throttle (the coolie hat must be tipped down simultaneously) it can make the NAV FLIR snap look: tip forward to snap look down, tip aft to snap look up, tip left to snap look left, tip right to snap look right.

When tipped in conjunction with the master caution light it can be used to display the caution control screens on one of the MPD's ( MPCD): while keeping the master caution light pressed, tip left for left MPD, tip right for right MPD, tip aft for MPCD.

2 - Trim Switch: This is what it's name tells: it is used to make steering trims during flight. Tipping it forward makes the aircraft lower its nose, tipping it backward makes the aircraft raising its nose, while tipping it sideways makes the aircraft lower its respective wing. If pressed down it engages the manual 1 program of the CMD (i.e. releases chaff).

3 - Auto Acquisition Switch: This switch handles the most functions on the pilot stick, which is logical, since it is the switch which can be handled by the thumb of the pilot the most easily while grasping the stick. Besides the ability to be pressed, the auto acquisition switch can be tipped forward and aft as well. The exact function triggered by pushing and tipping it depends on which 'mode' the aircraft is currently in. Here is a list of the different 'modes' and functions available:

  • During in-flight refueling, pressing the switch down disengages the refueling probe (if connected).
  • When TSD is displayed on the MPD/ MPCD in command, tipping the switch forward and aft creates smaller and larger target cue footprints (i.e. the area around the target which will appear on a HRM), respectively, while pressing the switch down returns to the present position map.
  • When viewing a HRM or an RBM, tipping the switch forward sets a smaller window, tipping the switch aft sets a larger window, while pressing the switch down rejects current mode (or performs an MN reset if the cursor function is MN update). In addition to these tipping the switch aft when viewing a HRM enables/disables pattern steering line if cursor function is target.
  • When using the targeting FLIR in manual mode, tipping the switch forward alternates between narrow and wide FOV's, tipping the switch aft returns to cueing mode, while pressing the switch down alternates between track and untrack modes (or performs an MN reset if the cursor function is MN update).
  • When a guided A/G weapon view is displayed, tipping the switch forward cages/uncages the weapon's seeker head. Pushing the switch down enables slewing, while releasing the switch issues a track command.
  • In connection with the A/G HUD, tipping the switch aft toggles between some A/G bombing modes (AUTO/ CDIP, CDIP/DIRECT).
  • When A/A radar screen is displayed on the MPD/ MPCD in command, tipping the switch forward toggles between some A/A radar search modes ( SS/ BST, HDTWS/ RAM), tipping the switch aft toggles between other A/A radar search modes (vertical scan, normal TWS), while pressing the switch down rejects current mode.

4 - Paddle Switch: This switch can be pressed (pulled back) momentarily and continuously. If pressed momentarily during flight it disengages autopilot. If pressed momentarily on the ground ( WOW is sensed) it terminates AFCS BIT. If pressed and held during flight it can be used (with conjunction to stick movement) to override the terrain following system with manual stick steering. If pressed and held on the ground it disengages nose wheel steering (done by rudder pedals when WOW is sensed).

5 - Nosewheel Steering Button: If pressed and held on the ground ( WOW is sensed) it puts nose wheel steering in maneuver mode, that is extreme wheel turns can be achieved - this is useful when making sharp turns during taxiing. If pressed in A/A master mode it cages the seeker head of the missile and uncages it when released. If pressed in A/G master mode it does the same (cage/uncage) with a guided weapon's seeker head.

6 - Gun Trigger: This trigger has two detents. Pressing it to the first detent starts camera video, pressing it to the second detent fires the gun (provided that the master arm switch is 'ON'). Releasing the trigger stops camera/gunfire.

7 - Weapon Release Button: When pressed momentarily, this button lets loose whatever weapon is set for release (drop A/G ordnance, launch A/A missile, etc. Pressing this button when not in weapon release mode enables programmed recording with VTRS (on-board video recorder).

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Last Updated on Tuesday, 07 September 2010

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