Eli5 Why there are so many rivets on fighter jets and why not use welding instead?


Eli5 Why there are so many rivets on fighter jets and why not use welding instead?

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Aircraft are usually thin and aluminum, neither of which are easy to weld. Rivets are much more repeatable with less operator error. Rivets can also be stronger and are much easier to inspect over the lifetime of the plane.


Simple answer, they are not.

Modern 4/5th generation jets are composite built without rivets or welding, instead using composite binding, glues or printed parts.

Fighters you see with rivets which many are still operating such as Mig 23 or mirage 3 were developed in the 1960s, when riveting was still optimal for aircraft as the alternative was screws. However, even then, they weren’t used uniformly. Solid rivets, semi tubular, blind and Huk rivets were all used. The choice was dictated by the requirements of the area of the plane, such as weight, tensile strength, sheer strength.

Many reasons:

First, Aircraft frame’s metal aren’t exactly sturdy, making the strength provided by weld kind of useless, Aluminum welding, when done right, is very tricky, its not like working with iron or steel.

Second, unlike road vehicles, aircraft are prone to damage, a single debris hit can tear out massive metal skin patches. having rivets lets you replace those patches with “relative” ease.

Third, rivet are MUCH easier to inspect than welding, especially for fighter jets where you need to turn over and rearm in very short time.

Also, rivet can withstand vibration better.

Then theres the cost and maintainer aspect, not only do you need to keep a welding tool but also train the techs to be proficient in wielding, where as rivet is… pretty straight forward.