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Published by Jeff Beck

A technical paper presented at the AIAA Atmospheric Flight Mechanics in 1995.

A technical paper presented at the AIAA Atmospheric Flight Mechanics in 1995.

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95–3448

A FRAMEWORK FOR ANALYSIS OF AIRCRAFTMANEUVERABILITY

Jeﬀrey A. Beck

∗

Air Force Institute of Technology, Wright-Patterson AFB, OH 45433

Thomas J. Cord

†

Wright Laboratory, Wright-Patterson AFB, OH 45433

We present a framework of deﬁnitions and relationships which represent the prelimi-nary development of a generalized theory of aircraft maneuverability. Maneuverability isdeﬁned as a measure of the ability to achieve and transition between steady maneuvers. Wefurther categorize maneuverability measures as maneuver performance or agility measureswhere maneuver performance is a measure of steady maneuver capability and agility is ameasure of the ability to transition between steady maneuvers. The motion vectors (veloc-ity, acceleration,

etc.

) are decomposed in the Frenet axis system and a new categorizationof components is identiﬁed according to the above deﬁnitions. We highlight importantparameters appearing in the components from which we develop maneuver performanceand agility envelopes. This framework provides an analytical basis on which to considermaneuverability in the aircraft development process, establishing a bridge between designand evaluation. It provides insight into the use of maneuverability in close-in air com-bat situations through ties to (and extensions of) energy-maneuverability theory. We alsoconsider the relationship between maneuverability and handling qualities, emphasizing theneed to treat them as two separate design goals.

I. Introduction

I.A. Problem Deﬁnition

The maneuverability of an aircraft is a composite of the ability to achieve rates, accelerations, and all higherderivatives in translation and rotation. For relatively steady maneuvers of long duration, the higher-orderderivatives do not signiﬁcantly inﬂuence the time to perform a speciﬁed task. The time required to transitionto the desired speed and rotation rate is small compared to the total time of the maneuver. As the durationof the maneuver is reduced or as the maneuver involves more transitioning, the importance of higher-orderderivative capability increases. We wish to describe in simple terms the application of aircraft motionto accomplish tasks which require a high degree of maneuvering. Our discussion centers on establishingrequirements for air-to-air combat. However, such a description would be equally useful for other tasks suchas lateral oﬀsets on approach, terrain following, or surface-to-air weapon evasion.Formulating a suitable description has proven diﬃcult due to the interplay of various factors and con-straints. Parameters in the areas of performance, maneuverability, and handling qualities have, for certainsystems, correlated well with success in the air combat arena. However, improvements in technology canlead to new capabilities which require new descriptors to properly account for the impact on aircraft ef-fectiveness. Historic examples of this can be seen in propulsion (more speed, altitude, endurance, range),structures (increased load factor, payload), avionics (better situational awareness), and weapons (decreasedtime to kill). Energy-maneuverability was created in the 1960s to account for the state of technology andtactics that existed at that time. It was necessary because the individual technical area metrics were nolonger suﬃcient to describe capabilities and predict the outcome of air battles.We may once again need a new, integrating parameter to describe the capability which exists in today’saircraft. This situation arises because of a combination of environmental issues and technical capabilities.

∗

Doctoral Candidate, Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics. Senior Member AIAA.

†

Flying Qualities Engineer, Flight Dynamics Directorate.This material is declared a work of the U.S. Government and is not subject to copyright protection in the United States.1 of 13American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics Paper 95–3448

We anticipate future air battles where our forces are at a numerical disadvantage, relying on high technologyto provide a “force multiplier.” Weapons have evolved to the point where they outperform the aircraft andhave eliminated the possibility of a safe disengagement. Expanded ﬂight envelopes in terms of angle of attackand increased control power through thrust vectoring have given the pilot a whole new set of dynamics thathe can choose to use in air combat. Based on the assumption that close-in combat will continue to benecessary, whether because of strategy or just sheer numbers, the above factors result in a need to minimizethe time to kill one adversary and target the next. This line of reasoning led to the search for the elusiveelement known as

agility

.

I.B. Previous Developments

Aircraft agility has been a subject of considerable discussion and research in the recent past. In some of theearliest agility research, Stutz and Price

?

compared aircraft by performing standard maneuvers and thenanalyzing trajectories and time histories of parameters such as load factor and acceleration. Some more recentinvestigators such as Lawless and Butts

?

and Wilson,

et al

?

,

?

have continued in this direction. There hasbeen increasing emphasis on the development of new metrics to quantify agility. Herbst,

et al

?

and Mazza

?

have sought to deﬁne agility in a strict mathematical sense, while Kalviste,

?

Skow,

et al

?

,

?

,

?

and others havetaken a more empirical approach to developing metrics. Here we are interested in mathematical derivations.However, such an approach should not conﬂict with the intuition used in developing the empirical metrics.The development of agility has also evolved into two primary views with regard to the dynamics of interest:

ﬂight-path agility

, which is derived from analysis of the ﬂight path or velocity vector and

pointing agility

, which arises from analysis of the vehicle attitude dynamics. The relative importance of these twoconcepts depends upon the speciﬁc task being performed. Flight-path analysis is the basis of the parametersand relationships presented in this report. However, it should not be diﬃcult to establish a direct relationshipbetween the two views (at least for conventional ﬁxed-wing aircraft).The ﬂight-path approach has been taken by several other researchers using the Frenet axis system and theidea that agility is the derivative of maneuverability. In Ref. [?], four diﬀerent agility deﬁnitions are presented.Each derivation starts from the premise that maneuverability is embodied in the Frenet components of theacceleration vector and agility is the derivative of maneuverability. The derivation attributed to Hornfollows these ideas to their logical conclusion that agility is embodied in the components of the jerk vector.The derivation by Mazza

?

is equivalent to this rigorous derivation. The remaining derivations in Ref. [?]give variations on Horn’s result, trading rigor for intuition. The principal departure occurs in the torsioncomponent where the roll rate term is dropped in favor of roll acceleration. Herbst justiﬁes this by notingthat Horn’s torsion component is nonzero during a steady barrel roll. This discrepancy was the principalfactor leading to the new grouping of parameters which we present below.

I.C. Approach

Because maneuverability is often thought of as “the ability to change the velocity vector,” earlier attemptsto mathematically deﬁne agility have started by equating maneuverability with the acceleration vector asdescribed above. This restricted interpretation of maneuverability essentially forces a mathematical deﬁnitionof agility which conﬂicts conceptually with some proposed empirical measures. Furthermore, it leads tothe less than satisfying conclusion that maneuverability and agility are little more than new titles for theacceleration and jerk vectors.In order to derive a more useful result, we begin by restating the deﬁnition of maneuverability in broaderterms:

Maneuverability

is a measure of the ability to achieve and transition between steady maneuvers. Thisdeﬁnition, like previous ones, suggests that maneuverability includes accelerations

and all higher derivatives

.A subtle but important diﬀerence arises in that our deﬁnition of maneuverability includes velocity, or, moreprecisely, speed capabilities. We introduce a new term,

maneuver performance

, as the measure of ﬁrst-order (or steady) maneuver capability. We then deﬁne agility as the measure of second-order (or transition)maneuver capability. The Venn diagrams in Figure 1 highlight the diﬀerence between our approach andprevious mathematical derivations based on a restricted deﬁnition of maneuverability.The presentation of this report follows three steps. In the next section, we present the derivation of themotion vectors (

i.e.

, the velocity, acceleration,

etc.

) in the Frenet axis system. This reference frame is anoninertial system tied to the trajectory which decomposes motion along the ﬂight path into its fundamental

2 of 13American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics Paper 95–3448

(a)(b)

Figure 1. Maneuverability and agility as viewed in (a) previous derivations and (b) the current approach.

components. We then examine these components and determine how they are related to maneuver perfor-mance and agility as deﬁned here. This process leads to a logical division of components which appearsto be more appropriate and in better agreement with proposed empirical measures. Finally, we provide apreliminary look at the utility of this new “framework.”

II. Motion Vector Components

We derive the components of the motion vectors (velocity, acceleration,

etc.

) in the Frenet coordinateframe. A similar development is given by Horn,

?

however, our derivation includes an additional derivative(for reasons which should become obvious). The Frenet frame is tied to the trajectory traversed by thevehicle center of mass and rotates relative to an inertial coordinate frame. Let

{

ˆt

,

ˆn

,

ˆb

}

be the orthogonalset of basis vectors in the Frenet frame as shown in Figure 2. The orientation of the Frenet system withrespect to a North-East-Down inertial system

a

can be described by a 3–2–1 set of Euler angles

{

χ,γ,σ

}

.

Figure 2. The Frenet axis system.

The ﬁrst two angles denote the standard heading and ﬂight-path angles, respectively. The third we will referto as the force inclination angle. It measures the inclination of the normal force from the horizontal in thenormal plane (see Figure 5). To describe the rotation of the Frenet coordinate frame, deﬁne the rotationvector

Ω

f

=

p

f

ˆt

+

q

f

ˆn

+

r

f

ˆb

.

(1)

a

A ﬂat Earth ﬁxed in space is assumed for this development.3 of 13American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics Paper 95–3448