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  • January 2014
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Archive for January 17th, 2014

Stealth in the air

Posted by picard578 on January 17, 2014


While “stealth” is normally used as short for “radar stealth”, it actually means proper suppression of all following signatures: visual, radar, infrared, electromagnetic and sound.

Stealth vs sensors


Visual stealth depends on several factors: airframe size and contrast, presence/absence of smoke and visibility conditions.

Airframe stealth is achieved by small size and masking colors – usually light gray. Early F-16s and Gripens were delivered with a black radome, which was quickly repainted grey when it was realized how much impact it has on visual signature. Visual signature also changes depending on aspect – it is smallest from the front and largest from top/bottom.

Smoke can have a very large impact on detection range – F-104 smoked so heavily that it was detectable at twice as long range as required to see aircraft itself. However, modern fighter aircraft use engines designed to minimize smoke, so it may not be a factor, older aircraft such as F-14 and F-15 excepted.

Visual stealth is especially important for ground attack aircraft, since visually-aimed AAA has always been the greatest threat (caused 38% of casualties in the Gulf War), followed by IR SAMs (31%) and only then by radar-guided SAMs (16%) and radar-aimed AAA (15%).


Radar stealth depends on multiple variables: aspect to radar, radar’s frequency, materials aircraft is made of. For all fighter aircraft, radar signature is lowest head-on, and higher from all other angles; and due to the shape, they are only truly stealthy few degrees from horizontal. Frequency-wise, any RAM coatings are only effective against X-band radars; Read the rest of this entry »

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