In aerobatics, Pugachev's Cobra (or Pugachev Cobra) is a dramatic and demanding manoeuvre in which an airplane flying at a moderate speed suddenly raises the nose momentarily to the vertical position and slightly beyond, before dropping it back to normal flight. It uses potent engine thrust to maintain approximately constant altitude through the entire move. The manoeuvre has several combat uses, and is also an impressive trick to demonstrate aircraft's pitch control authority, high angle of attack (AOA) stability and engine-versus-inlet compatibility, as well as the pilot's skill. The manoeuvre is named after the Soviet test pilot Viktor Pugachev, who first performed the manoeuvre publicly in 1989 at the Paris Le Bourget air show. Initially the Cobra was performed by Sukhoi's test pilot Igor Volk while testing the new Sukhoi Su-27 fighter.
In the case of the Su-27, the pilot initially disengages the angle of attack limiter of the plane, normally set at 26°. This action also disengages the g limiter. After that the pilot pulls back on the stick hard. The aircraft reaches 90–120° angle of attack with a slight gain of altitude and a significant loss of speed. When the elevator is centered, the drag at the rear of the plane causes torque, thus making the aircraft pitch forward. At that time the pilot adds power to compensate for the lift loss. In a properly performed Pugachev's Cobra, the plane maintains almost straight flight throughout the maneuver; the plane does not roll or yaw in either direction. Proper entry speed is significant because, if entering at too low a speed, the pilot might not be able to accomplish the maneuver; entering at too high a speed might result in airframe damage due to the high g-force or for the pilot to lose consciousness.[verification needed]
While Pugachev's Cobra can be executed using only standard aerodynamic controls, it could be achieved more easily with modern thrust vectoring. In the latter case it would be an example of supermaneuverability, specifically poststall maneuvering. The Herbst maneuvering and the helicopter manoeuvre are other examples of the recent growing use of vectored thrust in 4.5 and 5th generation aircraft, manned as well as unmanned.
Employment in combat 
This maneuver could theoretically be useful when a combatant is being pursued closely by an opponent at a somewhat higher altitude. By executing the cobra, a pursued aircraft may suddenly slow itself to the point that the pursuer may overshoot it, allowing the previously pursued aircraft to complete the Cobra behind the other. This may give the now-pursuing aircraft an opportunity for firing its weapons, particularly if a proper pointing aspect (facing toward the former pursuer) can be maintained. Maintenance of the proper aspect can be facilitated when the aircraft employs thrust vectoring and/or canard control surfaces. In practice the maneuver leaves the airplane in a low speed/low energy state, which is a contradiction to the "speed is life" motto generally applied for dogfighting. Without speed the plane is a sitting duck.
Examples of aircraft capable of the maneuver 
- Sukhoi Su-27 and variants (Su-30/Su-30MKI/Su-30MKM, Su-33, Su-37, Shenyang J-11)
- Mikoyan MiG-29 and Mikoyan MiG-35
- Lockheed Martin F-22 Raptor
See also 
- Cobra Turn
- Kulbit, a more demanding combat manoeuvre (performed for example by Sukhoi Su-37, etc.)
- Mike Spick (2002). The Illustrated Directory of Fighters. St. Paul, Minnesotta: MBI Publishing Company. p. 442. ISBN 0-7603-1343-1. Retrieved 29 October 2011.
- Crane, David. "Air-to-Air Fighter Combat Application of Pugachev’s Cobra Maneuver: Busting the Western Myth". Defense Review. Retrieved 14 January 2012.
- Из космоса — на самолёт!
- What is cobra?, AeroWeb.Lucia.it
- Malcolm J. Abzug; E. Eugene Larrabee. Airplane stability and control: a history of the technologies that made aviation possible. pp. 157–161. ISBN 978-0-521-80992-4. Retrieved 23 March 2011.
- Benjamin Gal-Or. "Vectored Propulsion, Supermanoeuvreability, and Robot Aircraft". Springer Verlag, 1990, ISBN 0-387-97161-0, ISBN 3-540-97161-0.
- "Cobra Maneuver ?". International journal of turbo & jet-engines 11. Retrieved 23 March 2011.
- Interview with Pugachev about this manoeuvre
- Fighter Technology of the Future
- USAF & NATO Report RTO-TR-015 AC/323/(HFM-015)/TP-1 (2001)