Is it true that US fighter jets cannot execute Pugachev’s Cobra?

(ORDO NEWS) — There is a fairly common myth that says that one of the most famous and spectacular aerobatics – “Pugachev’s Cobra” – can only be performed by domestic fighters.

In fact, this is not entirely true: for example, the American carrier-based multi-role fighter McDonnell Douglas F / A-18 Hornet is able to show a very similar maneuver with one and a half tons of missiles located under the wing.

The above video is quite old, it is a recording of demonstration flights, which showed the highest maneuverability of the time-tested Hornet in combat conditions. Domestic planes demonstrate the Cobra at almost every air show, but they do it without missiles or other ammunition on the suspension.

And this despite the fact that often the need for such an unusual maneuver is explained by the possibility of evading enemy fire in close combat or preventing him from aiming missiles.

The ability to “dodge” missiles was also mentioned earlier, but this version is untenable, since the pilot, most likely, will not have time to react to the approach of the ammunition in time, and even if he notices its approach, he will not have time to get out of the radius of destruction of the warhead.

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However, it is fair to say that the stunts performed by the F-18s in the footage are not quite the “cobra” in the form that Russian Su-27 family fighters show. The fact is that aerobatics schools differ greatly between countries. To understand these differences, let’s turn to the history of Pugachev’s Cobra.

For the first time, the public saw this spectacular performance at the Le Bourget Air Show in 1989, performed by Soviet pilot Viktor Pugachev. Despite the fact that he was not the first pilot to make a “cobra”, the aerobatics was named after him.

In fact, it was “opened” three times and only once on purpose. In the late 1970s, Igor Volk became a pioneer in the USSR, when, due to his mistake, the Su-27 reached supercritical angles of attack and the fly-by-wire control system (EDSU) of the aircraft ceased to function.

To save the car, Volk turned off the automatic control of the rudders and found that the fighter returned to level flight on its own. Later, the maneuver was performed intentionally more than once and instructions for its implementation appeared.

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In 1967, the “cobra” was accidentally performed by the Syrian pilot Muhammad Mansur during the run-in of the Soviet MiG-21s. The “zero speed maneuver” was tried to be used in air combat during the Arab-Israeli war of 1973, but there is no data on its effectiveness in open sources.

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Apparently, this aerobatics figure was invented before everyone else, and not discovered by chance, by Swedish pilots in the late 1950s. They tried to curb the Saab 35 fighter, which was difficult to manage and unstable in flight.

This machine was ahead of its time in many ways, and its tests were overshadowed by several deaths. In order to somehow counteract the drop in aircraft wing lift at high angles of attack, the pilots developed a series of actions that from the outside looked like placing the aircraft vertically with its nose up for a short time. From this came the Swedish name – kort parad (“short parade”, because the car seems to stand at attention).

Due to secrecy and in the atmosphere of the Cold War, no one could find out about the invention of the Swedes, so the association of the Pugachev Cobra with Soviet fighters, which were the first to show this maneuver in public, is not surprising.

The description of the aerobatic maneuver does not contain strict requirements for the maximum angle of attack, the main thing is that it be 90 degrees or more. An experimental Su-37 with thrust vector control and front horizontal tail can actually fly tail first for a while (angle of attack 150-180 degrees).

In general, a large number of modern aircraft, including the F-35 and F-22, as well as the F / A-18 multi-purpose attack fighter developed a couple of years earlier than the Su-27, can “stand on the tail without climbing”.

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The issue of the combat use of the “cobra” has been discussed more than once and there is no consensus. Some experts and pilots argue that such a sharp drop in speed can be useful in real combat and there are positive examples.

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The style of warfare of the US Air Force involves the destruction of enemy aircraft at a long distance, as the safest. To realize this, fighters never fight without AWACS support and thorough all-round reconnaissance.

And from the point of view of avoiding the pursuer and trying to attack him, the Herbst maneuver is much more practical – a J-turn with a small climb.


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