Mig-29 cobra maneuver
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Can an American plane perform a cobra maneuver


There is a fairly common myth that one of the most famous and spectacular figures of aerobatics – “Kobru Pugachev” – can perform only domestic fighters. In fact, this is not quite the case: for example, the American deck multirole 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 aircraft at almost every air show demonstrate “cobra” but do it without missiles or other ammunition on the suspension. And this is despite the fact that often the need for such an unusual maneuver is explained by the ability to dodge enemy fire in close combat or not to allow him to target missiles. Previously mentioned and the possibility to “dodge” the missiles, but this version is untenable, as the pilot, most likely, will not have time to react to the approach of the munition in time, and even if he notices its approach, the radius of the warhead will not have time to get out.

Mig-29M
Mig-29M

However, it is fair to note that the tricks performed by the F-18 on the record are not quite “cobra” as shown by Russian Su-27 fighter jets. The fact is that aerobatics schools are very different between countries. To understand these differences, let’s turn to the history of “Cobra Pugachev.”

The audience first 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 figure was named after him. In fact, it was “opened” three times and only once intentionally. In the late 1970s, igor Volk became a pioneer in the USSR when, due to his mistake, the Su-27 entered critical attack angles and the aircraft’s electric control system (EDSU) ceased to function. To save the car, Wolf turned off the steering wheel control machine and found that the fighter had returned to the horizontal flight on its own. Later, the maneuver was repeatedly carried out intentionally and there was an instruction to perform it.

Mig-21
Mig-21

In 1967, the “cobra” was accidentally performed by Syrian pilot Muhammad Mansour during the rounding of the Soviet MiG-21. The “zero-speed maneuver” was used in aerial combat during the 1973 Arab-Israeli war, but there is no evidence of its effectiveness in open sources.

Saab 35 Draken
Saab 35 Draken

Apparently, before all this figure of aerobatics was invented, and not discovered by chance, Swedish pilots in the late 1950s. This machine was largely ahead of its time, and its tests were marred by several deaths. To somehow resist the fall of the lifting force of the wing of the aircraft at large angles of attack, the pilots developed a series of actions that from the outside looked like putting the aircraft upright nose up for a short time. This is what the Swedish name is called kort parad (“short parade”, because the car seems to stand up on the rack “quietly”).

Due to the secrecy and cold war conditions, no one could find out about the invention of the Swedes, so it is not surprising that the association of “Cobra Pugachev” with Soviet fighters, who were the first to show this maneuver in public. The description of the aerobatics figure does not contain strict requirements for the maximum angle of the attack, the main thing is that it was 90 degrees or more. Experimental Su-37 with a controlled thrust vector and front horizontal plumage can actually fly the tail forward for a while (attack angle 150-180 degrees). In general, a large number of modern aircraft, including the F-35 and F-22, and developed a couple of years earlier than the Su-27 multirole fighter-attack aircraft F/A-18, can “stand on its tail without a set of heights”.

cobra maneuver CGI
cobra maneuver CGI

The issue of the combat use of “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. However, Peter Deneikin, former head of the Air Force of the USSR and Russia, said that this information is greatly exaggerated and except for the show, this focus is not suitable. U.S. military experts are extremely cautious about the idea of using aerobatics in real combat.

F-22 Raptor
F-22 Raptor

The style of warfare of the U.S. Air Force involves the destruction of enemy aircraft at long range as the safest. To achieve this, fighter jets never fight without the support of THEDR aircraft and thorough comprehensive reconnaissance. And in terms of getting away from the pursuer and trying to attack him, much more practical is herbst’s maneuver – a J-shaped U-turn with a small set of heights.


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