Consider now a system with general linear time-invariant dynamics
Suppose that the control objective is to steer from a given initial state to a given final state in minimal time. To be sure that this problem is well posed, we assume that there exists some control that achieves the transfer from to (in some time). As we will see in Section 4.5 (Theorem 4.3), this guarantees that a time-optimal control exists. We now use the maximum principle to characterize it. The Hamiltonian is . The Hamiltonian maximization condition implies that
where are the columns of . Since the components of the optimal control can be chosen independently, it is clear that each term in the summation must be maximized:
It has now become obvious that we must have
The adjoint equation is , which gives . From this we obtain . This is a real analytic function of ; hence, if it vanishes on some time interval, then it vanishes for all , together with all its derivatives. Calculating these derivatives at , we arrive at the equalities
Let us now collect the properties of the optimal control that we are able to derive under the above normality assumption. None of the functions equal 0 on any time interval; being real analytic functions, they only have finitely many zeros on the interval . Using the formula (4.54), we see that each function only takes the values and switches between these values finitely many times. Away from these switching times, is uniquely determined by (4.54). We conclude that the overall optimal control takes values only in the set of vertices of the hypercube , has finitely many discontinuities (switches), and is unique everywhere else. Generalizing the earlier notion, we say that controls taking values in the set of vertices of are bang-bang (or have the bang-bang property); the result that we have just obtained is a version of the bang-bang principle for linear systems.
Before closing this discussion, it is instructive to see how the above bang-bang property can be established in a self-contained way, without relying on the maximum principle. More precisely, the argument outlined next essentially rederives the maximum principle from scratch for the particular problem at hand (in the spirit of Section 4.3.1). Solutions of the system (4.51) take the form
For , let us introduce the set of points reachable from at time :
which, in view of the formula , is equivalent to
From this it is not difficult to recover the fact that (4.53) must hold for (almost) all , and we can proceed from there as before.
The assumption of normality, which was needed to prove the bang-bang property of time-optimal controls for a hypercube, is quite strong. A different, weaker version of the bang-bang principle could be formulated as follows. Rather than wishing for every time-optimal control to be bang-bang, we could ask whether every state reachable from by some control is also reachable from in the same time by a bang-bang control; in other words, whether reachable sets for bang-bang controls coincide with reachable sets for all controls. This would imply that, even though not all time-optimal controls are necessarily bang-bang, we can always select one that is bang-bang. It turns out that this modified bang-bang principle holds for every linear control system (no controllability assumption is necessary) and every control set that is a convex polyhedron. The proof requires a refinement of the above argument and some additional steps; see [Sus83, Section 8.1] for details.