Aircraft Wiki

Supermaneuverability is important in combat aviation, a aircraft is supermaneuverable when it is able to exceed the design limits of pure aerodynamic maneuverability. Russian fourth Generation Aircraft were the first operational Fighters with Supermaneuverability, it used on some 4th and 4.5th Generation aircraft and on all 5th Generation Jet Fighters except the F-35 Lightning II, which is only aerodynamically maneuverable, those 5th Generation Fighters like the Lockheed Martin F-22 Raptor or the newly unveiled Russian Sukhoi PAK-FA with Supermaneuverabilty use thrust vectoring to advance their Supermaneuverability at a grade to perform post-stall maneuvers.

Evidence for Supermaneuverability[]

There's no clear evidence to proof supermaneuverability, while supermaneuverability is defined to be the ability of an Aircraft to fly extreme maneuvers at a high Angle of Attack without loosing control. Some of those maneuvers are the Herbst Maneuver, the Kulbit and the famous Pugachev's Cobra maneuver.

The Cobra maneuver was invented by Russian pilots using their Sukhoi Su-27 Flanker and Mikoyan MiG-29 Fulcrum aircraft, the Cobra maneuver is a form of passive supermaneuverability, while it is performed beyond normal conditions and without the need of thrust Vectoring nozzles.

Unlike the Cobra maneuver and the Kulbit, the Herbst Maneuver ( or J-turn ) is thought to be impossible for aircraft without thrust vectoring, while in this maneuver the aircraft is stalled and this is impossible to be performed by conventional control surfaces without loosing control.

Characteristics needed for Supermaneuverability[]

Thrust to weight ratio[]

A good thrust to weight ratio is the key feature for supermaneuverable aircraft, beacuse a high thrust to weight ratio allows an aircraft to accelerate faster to a safe flight speed after a High G-turn and if the Aircraft is stalled it is still able to recover very fast due to it's good acceleration performance, what is a great advantage when the pilot intends to maneuver harder and then he can recover faster.


Canards are one of the most conventional ways to improve agility and to gain supermaneuverability, however they are known to reduce the Stealth abilities of an aicraft, which is the reason why there are not included on modern stealth fighter like the F-35 Lightning II or the F-22 Raptor. Primarly canards are used to give an aircraft additional stabiliy while maneuvering and they became standard on all delta winged European 4.5th Generation Fighter Aircraft like the Eurofighter Typhoon, the Dassault Rafale or the Saab JAS-39 Gripen.

Thrust Vectoring nozzles[]

Thrust vectoring nozzles are the most effective way to gain Supermaneuverability, while they allow the engines to direct the thrust up and down or left or right (only on 3D thrust vectoring nozzles), this technology is used on some 4.5th Generation Fighters and on all 5th Generation Fighters, except the F-35 JSF. Thrust vectoring is still more useful when the pilot wants to perform extreme maneuvers like the J-turn, thrust vectoring nozzles improve agility at both sub- and supersonic speeds and at a high altitude, especially on the F-22 Raptor.

In the 1990's many test aircraft have been equipped with vectoring nozzles in Russia and the USA, such as the MiG-29 OVT, F-15 S/MTD or the General Dynamics F-16 VISTA to study the advantages and disadvantages of vectoring nozzles and how they improve the agility and Close Combat Performance of the Aircraft.