|A leading-edge root extension (LERX) is a small fillet, typically roughly triangular in shape, running forward from the leading edge of the wing root to a point along the fuselage. These are often called simply leading-edge extensions (LEX), although they are not the only kind. To avoid ambiguity, this article uses the term LERX. |
On a modern fighter aircraft LERX provide usable airflow over the wing at high angles of attack, so delaying the stall and consequent loss of lift. In cruising flight the effect of the LERX is minimal. However at high angles of attack, as often encountered in a dog fight or during takeoff and landing, the LERX generates a high-speed vortex that attaches to the top of the wing. The vortex action maintains a smooth airflow over the wing surface well past the normal stall point at which the airflow would otherwise break up, thus sustaining lift at very high angles.
LERX were first used on the Northrop F-5 "Freedom fighter" which flew in 1959, and have since become commonplace on many combat aircraft. The F/A-18 Hornet has especially large examples, as does the Sukhoi Su-27. The Su-27 LERX help to make some advanced maneuvers possible, such as the Pugachev's Cobra, the Cobra Turn and the Kulbit.
A long, narrow sideways extension to the fuselage, attached in this position, is an example of a chine.