On 12 Jun 99, ``both crew members of the prototype vectored-thrust Sukhoi Su-30MKI multi-role fighter survived a spectacular minimum-altitude ejection without injury when it crashed on the Le Bourget airfield ... the pilot was seen to attempt a maximum rotation recovery... using full two-dimensional TVC. Most eye-witnesses agree that he was almost successful in his attempted recovery ...'' [AVweek]
The Sukhoi that crashed at the June 99 Paris Air Show had impressive levels maneuverability and agility. Even still, one of the most highly skilled (thrust vector) pilots was unable to fully recover the aircraft. Either the aircraft was not recoverable or the pilot was unable to extract the needed level of available maneuvering performance.
Almost a century of piloted flight has taught us many lessons in the design and control of high performance flight vehicles. However, little of this experience is useful when we radically modify the design of an aircraft system. For instance, it appears that we still have much to learn in obtaining maximum maneuvering performance with vectored thrust. Further difficulties are to be expected as we move toward more autonomy and onto Uninhabited Combat Air Vehicles.
We are working to develop high performance maneuvering capabilities for UCAVs. Through the use of multilevel optimization, we seek to understand and exploit aircraft capabilities, providing guaranteed regions of operation. These techniques are being developed and tested on the recently redesigned Caltech Ducted Fan, possessing high authority thrust vectoring and substantially larger wings. Animations and videos of maneuvers will be presented.