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Originally posted by waynos
I can answer this point, The FBW systems tested from 1972 were very rudimentary by todays standards, naturally enough, as that represents the beginning of the technology. Its not merely the existence of FBW thats the question, but also the complexity of the system required and the state of computer technology which is crucial to making the unstable layout workable.
You may be aware that the FBW system of the Typhoon (as an example, I don't want to keep typing out all the names!) makes hundreds of adjustments per second due to its instability, this was completely beyond the computing power of '70's technology when the FBW sytems of the day were concerned with controlling conventional fighters and allowing them to be made lighter and more efficient than they would be with mechanical powered controls. The realisation that such a control system, given suitable computer capacity, could be used to make otherwise uncontrollable shapes safe to fly came much later.
I had a much more lengthy response, but unfortunately in my zeal to respond, I managed to delete it
Saab decided that a canard layout would entail a lower technical risk as the canard can be weathercocked turning the aircraft into a slightly stable one. This cannot be done with an unstable aft tail configuration.
Originally posted by xmotex
the USAF hasn't taken on anything close to a competitive modern air force since Korea (Russian pilots in Mig-15s), so it's kind of hard to judge how US fighters would do against a real threat force.