Everybody do the Cobra!

Pugachev's Cobra

First, of all...  Thanks for the overwhelming response to the first installment of "Fighter Jet Fight Club"!  I set out to inspire some discussion, and I'm pretty happy with the result.  Lots of intelligent, well argued debates.  I may have not been able to answer all of you, but I do read all the comments.

One comment (it was actually responding to the post on the NFPS report) in particular got me thinking...

Commenter "Paul" stated:
"The F-18 is the only western fighter that can do the cobra".
 This caught me by surprise, as I was unaware that the F-18 could perform the vaunted maneuver of dubious tactical benefit.  There is this video of a Super Hornet coming very close at the 0:50 and 2:25 mark...

Even if you consider those as Pugachev's Cobra (the Super Hornet doesn't quite go past a 90 degree angle), the Super Hornet is far from the only western fighter.

The F-22 makes it look easy, in fact:

Even Maverick could do it in his F-14:

This F-16 can do it...  With a little help from thrust vectoring:

Then again, nobody does it like the Russians, here's the Flanker:

The PAK FA gets in on the action as well:

Of course, as impressive as the Pugachev's Cobra is at air shows, its value in actual combat seems dubious at best.  While it may seem useful to flip the aircraft up to get a shot at a pursuer, this seems unnecessary when helmet mounted cueing and and high-off-boresight missiles are available.  The Cobra also completely robs the aircraft of forward momentum, bringing it to a near standstill.  In fighter combat; speed is life.  Performing the Cobra would leave the aircraft a sitting duck.

At best, Pugachev's Cobra is a entertaining display of an aircraft's thrust-to-weight and high angle-of-attack performance.  It is also not as new as you would think.  Those Swedish hipsters were doing a the Cobra before it was cool.


  1. Thank you. Internet aviation enthusiasts who praise fighters capable of doing a Cobra make me laugh. Virtually all energy is depleted in that maneuver. If I'm in an F-16 dogfighting against a Flanker, and it pulls a Cobra, I just smile and laugh. Sure I'll overshoot, but I'll just hold my speed and crush a 9g turn at 450 knots, come around on the Flanker while he's still recovering energy, and shred him with the gun. It's an air show maneuver, or something eye catching to put in a movie, not much more IMO.

  2. I know I'm in the minority but I think the cobra maneuver could be very useful. If you have a missile at your six and you pull the cobra while ejecting countermeasures you have just increased the missile seekers job exponentially.
    The same goes if you have an enemy aircraft behind you. It's not perfect but it could be useful.

  3. As long as you have a tail, sorry Delta wing planes. The F-18 does it pretty good because of it large rear tail wing and the "motionless" Canards or flattened wing beside the pilot. The
    aerodynamic of the Russian equipment is outstanding.

  4. Only if you're playing Ace Combat, Dan.

  5. Leading edge root extensions. LERX.


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