Fly-by-Wire -FBW- is the generally accepted term for those flight control systems which use computers to process the control movements made by the pilot, or autopilot, and send appropriate electrical signals to the flight control surface actuators. This arrangement replaces mechanical linkage and means that the pilot inputs do not directly move the control surfaces. Instead, inputs are read by a computer that in turn decides how to move the control surfaces to best achieve what the pilot wants.
Why FBW is it Useful and enhance safety?
The advantages of reduced weight, improved reliability, damage tolerance and more effective control of a necessarily highly manoeuverable aircraft were first recognised in military aircraft design and the first aircraft to have FBW for all its flight controls in place of direct mechanical or hydraulically-assisted operation was the F-16 in 1973. In the context of military fast jet need for agility – and therefore relatively more unstable aircraft, the ability to have unwanted increases in angle of attack or sideslip recognized and rapidly and automatically resolved by marginally deflecting the control surfaces in the opposite way while they’re still small.
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Fly By Wire