Unlike the F-16, the Su-27 performs dynamic deceleration in flight

PANAGYURISHTE, BULGARIA — Slovakia and Poland have announced their intentions to supply Ukraine with MiG-29s from their air force inventories. Undoubtedly good news for Ukraine. How long the process of integrating foreign MiG-29s into the Ukrainian Air Force will take is a completely separate issue that we will not consider.

Su-27 Flanker fighter jet
Photo credit: Creative Commons

At the same time, representatives of official Kyiv continue to claim that they are expecting Western fighters. The most common name is the American F-16 fighter. Washington does not currently allow the re-export of the F-16. However, some wish. The Netherlands is the first country to announce that it can deliver the American flagship to Ukraine.

In the coming week, another event captivated society. The Russian Su-27 fighter jet, which through maneuvers and fuel dumping managed to neutralize the American RQ-9 Reaper reconnaissance drone over the Black Sea near Crimea. This incident, the future delivery of the MiG-29 to Ukraine, and the often-conjugated name F-16 are linked. Their functional and technological performance determines the usefulness and uselessness of one versus the other in actual combat.

Why was the Su-27 sent against the drone?

The Russian Su-27 is considered one of the most maneuverable fighters in the world. This gives him a major advantage in the air in any air-to-air combat. As part of the composition of the Russian Navy, the Su-27 was chosen to defend the coasts of the Russian Federation.

Russia will reward Su-27 pilots who 'pissed' the MQ-9 drone
Video screenshot

Although there is no drone in the world that can boast the maneuverability of any fighter, nor its speed, the deployment of the Su-27 has a techno-godly purpose. This fighter performs best Pugachev’s Cobra maneuver [or just “cobra”] or dynamic deceleration.

12 fighter models in the world are capable of this maneuver. Of the active and operationally ready fighters that perform it, there are only four. These are the Chinese Chengdu J-10B TVC, the Soviet MiG-29A, the Soviet/Russian Su-27 Flanker, and the Soviet/Russian Su-35 Flanker-E. The other eight fighters either no longer exist, or one or two prototypes have been produced as test platforms.

What is dynamic deceleration?

This maneuver is famous among military pilots. To date, there is no evidence that it was used in an actual aerial battle. It has been and continues to be performed at only two events: Air Shows and Air Force Training.

Unlike the F-16, the Su-27 performs dynamic deceleration in flight
Photo credit: Wikipedia

During the moderate flight, the fighter can perform an air brake. I.e. a sudden vertical lift of the nose above the vertical attitude of the aircraft, maintaining the flight altitude, resulting in a momentary stop of the fighter in the air, but changing the angle of attack. After this dramatic and demanding maneuver is done, the pilot returns to the starting position of the fighter piloted by him.

Why is this maneuver important?

During a head-to-head dogfight, opposing fighters rely on different abilities. One of the key abilities that can save one of the two fighting fighters is changing the angle of attack. This property is most important in both offensive and defensive maneuver actions.

The dynamic deceleration or Pugachev’s Cobra is the most effective and familiar way for a fighter jet to change the alpha angle of attack. Exceptional piloting skills are required because the pilot must not overload the hull during the maneuver. At the same time, taking care not to overload the airframe, the pilot must force the aircraft’s engines to the extent that they provide the necessary thrust in the air. With the necessary thrust, the pilot maintains a constant height. It gives the impression that the fighter remains stationary in the air. The pilot can then change the angle of attack again, choosing which direction to point the aircraft, and returning it to a level flight position.

Unlike the F-16, the Su-27 performs dynamic deceleration in flight
Photo credit: Wikipedia

Piloting skills are required in this maneuver. By doing all of this described above, the pilot must properly control the pitch level, stability, and compatibility between the engine and the input to the aircraft.

From prey to predator

The American F-16 can become an excellent predator if it comes to a dogfight between it and the Russian Su-27. The F-16 can chase down the Russian fighter, but the Su-27’s dynamic deceleration capability will easily turn the American fighter into prey.

Executing the Cobra is a highly effective maneuver precisely in pursuit. The Russian Su-27 can perform the maneuver sharply. The rear plane [the F-16 chaser] will be played, as from the second, it rolls first through the two. In this way, the Su-27 becomes a predator and the F-16 becomes prey. The roles are reversed.

However, the Su-27 has little time to shoot down the F-16. Since the Russian fighter loses speed during the maneuver, and the F-16 actually increases it, the Su-27 pilot must keep the weapons locked on the target. This requires the use of thrust vectoring and/or canard control surfaces. If the Russian pilot is not that experienced, the Cobra maneuver will be at his disadvantage, because the prey F-16 will escape.

Limited use of the F-16

We proceed from the trend that Ukraine will receive F-16. I.e. we tentatively take the F-16 as a given. The F-16 is not as maneuverable against the Russian Su-27 or Su-35. This means that Ukraine will have to use the F-16 in a very short time interval to avoid air combat.

F-16s painted over with Ukrainian insignia but no Ukrainian pilots
Photo credit: DGS World

In such a case, his presence in Ukraine is somewhat meaningless. Most likely, the American fighter will be used for air support of a ground offensive and artillery. Also for episodic attacks on Russian command posts, barracks, etc.

But taking into account the inexperience of the Ukrainian pilots [if they are Ukrainian] and the broken concentration, since they will have to store the foreign western equipment, when facing a Su-27 or Su-35, the probability of escaping from a fight is greater than include in it.


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