Stealth – evolution of justification

Radar stealth does not work very well against airborne threats for three very simple reasons. First, visual identification is necessary before engagement, which requires fighters to close in to either eyeball or optical sensor range. This means that larger fighter is at disadvantage, and stealth fighters are always larger than comparable non-stealth fighters. Second, pilots will always try to approach enemy or unknow fighter from the rear to maximize time avaliable for identification and minimize possibility of being detected. This requires higher cruise speed than the target, but also that fighter remains silent during the entire intercept. While fighter performing intercept might benefit from greater situational awareness, using onboard radar warns everyone in vicinity and significantly reduces a possibility of successful attack by either intercepting fighter itself or by any friendly fighters – even those not using the radar. Third, stealth assumes that aircraft will use radars but nobody will have competent RWRs.

As a result, radar-based BVR combat is only useful against large aircraft such as transports and AWACS. But even in that case, large radar is a primary value, and stealth aircraft will have smaller radar because of the shaping requirements. Stealth can be useful to hide from AWACS’ powerful signals, but most of the time only frontal stealth is actually necessary. Further, if a stealth fighter carries out any hard maneuvers which force it to bank, it will get detected even by airborne radars.

So why all-aspect stealth?

All stealth aircraft – F-117, B-2, F-22 and F-35 were intended for offensive actions over the Soviet Union. This was a heavily SAM-infested environment, with hostile radar emissions likely from every angle – but only one altitude, as Russian doctrine meant that fighters only used radars (and IRST) for engagement, and were typically led to the combat area by ground radars. Back then, VHF radars could not provide accurate enough tracking for a SAM launch, while IRST systems – especially Russian ones – were short-ranged, unreliable and with high false alarm rates. Consequently, all-aspect stealth was a major survivability benefit.

Low numbers and sortie rate of stealth fighters were not an issue – at least up until the JSF idea floated – as stealth aircraft were intended to take on high-risk missions, eliminating high-value targets deep inside enemy territory, while conventional aircraft would establish air superiority and carry out ground attack missions over frontline areas, as well as behind the enemy lines once air defences have been sufficiently degraded. SAMs themselves were also rather static, allowing small numbers of stealth aircraft to relatively easily find and eliminate them before they could redeploy (this held true even for “mobile” SAMs).

Designers of first stealth aircraft were also acutely aware of their aircrafts’ limitations – namely, vulnerability to optical acquisition and weapons (no matter how an aircraft is painted, it will appear as a black dot against the sky from the ground, and that is not even going into issue of contrails). F-117 was originally to be painted light gray, but it was repainted black so as to prevent “geniuses” within USAF from trying to use it during the day; this was done despite the fact that light gray camouflage is actually more effective than black during either day or night (if it is so dark that black camouflage is truly effective, it is entirely possible to safely paint the aircraft pink or white as it means there is no light at all).

But the Cold War ended, and suddenly stealth aircraft found themselves with no real mission. This was especially true for the F-22 and F-35 programmes. Both were intended for combat deep behind the frontline. In their employment scenario, F-22 would provide air cover while F-35 destroyed command centers, bridges, ammunition and fuel depots, radars and other fixed ground assets. Both aircraft could still perform well in such missions, better than non-stealth platforms, but they were not strictly necessary – especially not in as large numbers. As a result, F-22 production ended at 187 aircraft (195 when prototypes are included).

However, F-35 was to be a far more important project. US defense industry placed huge stakes in it. First, it was to provide huge profits to contractors producing the F-35. Second, it was to eliminate any competition from Europe. For these reasons, F-35 has no alternative in US defense procurement. Consequently, a lot of effort was put into making the F-35 appear both better and cheaper than it is. Its production is subsidized by US tax payers, and costs are shifted around, making it appear artificially far cheaper than it is. Its lack of performance then has to be excused by a truckload of new and old technologies, all of them presented as revolutionary advances when they are nowhere close to being such.

It is important to understand that stealth was not expected to provide survivability benefit on its own. This was clearly shown with the F-117, which flew in Gulf and Kosovo wars. It suffered one loss per 2.520 sorties, while the A-10 suffered one loss per 2.250 sorties and the F-16 suffered one loss per 4.448 sorties. In Kosovo war, 1 F-117 was shot down and one sustained light damage from a near-miss, while 1 F-16 was lost and two A-10s were damaged but none were lost. F-117 was always to be escorted by jammers; in Kosovo shootdown, jammer aircraft was present but incorrectly positioned. B-2 was expected to fly at extremely low altitudes by using its terrain-following radar. F-22 was to use its high altitude supercruise capability as primary survivability strategy, while F-35 was to rely primarily on low-altitude flight and good situational awareness. In all cases, stealth was there simply to improve on aircraft’s primary survivability approach as opposed to being the primary approach itself.

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30 thoughts on “Stealth – evolution of justification

  1. Great website.

    Just one question about this article: wasn’t the F16’s low loss rate thanks to the F117 having taken out the radar sites? You mentioned that they were always accompanied by jammers. Are you saying that if Tornados or F-15s had done the same job, they would have suffered similarly low losses?

    Again on the issue of stealth, I’d be interested in what you think of this: https://medium.com/war-is-boring/don-t-think-the-f-35-can-fight-it-does-in-this-realistic-war-game-fc10706ba9f4

    As you might well know, War is Boring is mostly critical of the F-35. In this article, however, they road-test a new war simulation game that purports to use as-accurate-as-possible physics and characteristics of basically all known missile, aircraft and radar systems since the 50s.

    • “Just one question about this article: wasn’t the F16’s low loss rate thanks to the F117 having taken out the radar sites?”

      Not likely. Most radar batteries were untouched by strikes, and first anti-radar strike was actually done by Apaches, to take out VHF radar and enable F117s to launch their strikes in the first place.

      Besides, majority of aircraft performing first-night SEAD/DEAD were non-stealth SEAD aircraft, such as F-16 SEAD variants (F-16CJ?).

      “Are you saying that if Tornados or F-15s had done the same job, they would have suffered similarly low losses?”

      Maybe not Tornados – they flew at low altitude and were thus vulnerable to AAA – but F-15s, F-16s and A-10s certainly could have done the job with similarly low losses. Hell, they *did* the job with similarly low losses, there were two night-flying squadrons of A-10s in Desert Storm. These flew as many night sorties as F-117s did, if not more, and suffered no losses.

      Main threat to aircraft have always been optically aimed AAA and IR SAMs (especially MANPADS), against which F-117 and F-35 are no more stealthy than A-10 and F-16. Radar-guided SAMs are comparably useless, and can be easily enough countered by jammers and decoys.

      “Again on the issue of stealth, I’d be interested in what you think of this:”

      As article itself says, it is a “war game”, which means that results are at most as valid as my own conclusions.

      Now onto specifics:
      * It is entirely correct that most kills were against unaware opponents. In Desert Storm, BVR missiles achieved as high Pk as they did because targets were unaware they were being shot at and so did not maneuver. But that age is fading, at least where missile shots are concerned. Modern IR MAWS can notice missiles dozen or so seconds before the impact; as evasion maneuver is best done 4-5 seconds before the impact, this gives enough time for aircraft to position itself and then do evasion maneuver. This was not the case as late as 1990s. That being said, F-35 does have IRST and IR BVRAAM – but so do Typhoon, Rafale and Flanker variants.
      * No tactical PC simulation can be hyperrealistic. What they write about CMANO does reveal rather realistic simulation, but it is still a simulation and may be too optimistic in some things and pessimistic in others. They say that “This is an unclassified consumer war game with weapon ranges/sensor data drawn from multiple open sources (and very informed guesses). Real-world missile ranges and sensor performance therefore could well be better.” – so about as good in starting data as what I’m doing. And real-world performance is likely to be worse, if for nothing else than because of wartime maintenance issues. For example, AESA radars in fighters during war are unlikely to have all T/R modules in function at any given time, missiles will malfunction etc. Open source claims are also typically waay too optimistic about many things, especially effective missile range – in fact, missile ranges given are aerodynamic ranges, effective range is 3-25% of maximum range. F-35s RCS during real-world operations will also be far higher than open-source claims, seeing as stealth coating will degrade during normal operations, and normal movement by aerodynamic surfaces as well as maneuvers will all serve to massively increase effective RCS.
      * In anything short of WWIII, and even in WWIII, visual ID will be required as it is the only reliable way of identifying targets. It seems that simulation assumed that IFF works, which almost certainly makes it too optimistic.

      “Fight’s on!” section
      1) F-35s EW suite tagged Su-35s as hostile from 350 nm away? That would be 648 km. Since Su-35s radar is said to have 290 km range vs 1m2 target and 425 km range vs 5m2 target, this is not unlikely – in fact, it may be on the pessimistic side. It is unlikely to happen “instantly” however, few seconds’ delay may be likely. Modern RWRs can give range estimate, so that part is not unlikely either.
      2) Sneaking up on Su-35s from sides is a good plan, however one has to remember that Su-35s have higher supersonic endurance than F-35s, and can easily outrun them. So nice, but risky.
      3) and 4) seem realistic enough, no comment.
      5) Nice, though turning side and maneuvering would cause a major increase in F-35s RCS. If done carefully, it may still remain undetected by Su-35s radar.
      6-8) No comment.
      9-19) Three Flankers killed in eight missile shots, for 37,5% Pk. Way too optimistic, assuming that Flankers have ECM suite and are trying to evade missile shots. If not then who are F-35s fighting? Eritrea?
      20-24) Same thing as above. With 12 Meteors expended, they could have shot down at most 1-2 Flankers.

      Red side.
      1-8) Mostly OK, but I don’t buy three Meteors killing one Su-35. Especially not at 80-100 nautic miles, this is way out of even Meteor’s effective range.
      9-12) Again, this scenario is only realistic if F-35s are using IRST only, but that requires AWACS, and Russians have AWACS-killing missiles. Too optimistic missile Pk as well.
      13) Considering F-35s and Su-35s cruise speeds, F-35 radar spike *behind* Su-35 is not a threat. I don’t think datalinks are unjammable either.
      15) Two missiles for a kill? Unlikely.
      16) AWACS is not really reliable, and I don’t think EOTS has 96 nm identification range either.

      Third test
      F-35s either got really lucky or simulation is simply too optimistic about radar missile Pk in jammed environment. That, or it assumes IR Meteor. Still too optimistic, though.

      Other
      Meteor definetly does not have 75 nm effective range. AIM-54 has 100 nm range against Airbus, maybe, definetly not against fighter aircraft.
      If Russia is on defensive, everything is different, as it will have VHF radars – and these can easily detect the F-35.

      Questions:
      Flankers have very long flight radius. Why didn’t they go and bomb F-35s air fields? That way they don’t even have to bother with airborne F-35s.

      • Outstanding! You’re like a fighter jet technology whizz-kid.

        On some of the specifics (if you’re inclined):

        – do you think that the Iraqi VHF radars WOULD HAVE posed a significant threat to the F-117s? There were reports that the Iraqis had detected these planes but weren’t able to utilize the information (source: Decisive Weapons, BBC. Stealth fighter episode), and you mentioned that not all the Iraqi sites had been taken out.
        – Given all that, is it correct to say that electronic warfare capability was the real trump card for the Allies in Operation Desert Storm? (as well as close air support in the form of the A-10)
        – if Russian VHF radar “can easily detect” an F-35, do you mean that it can provide high-quality tracking data information to a missile, or is it more in the sense of being able to cue another system which can then get a better lock-on? It’s probably fair to say that the Russians are doing amazing things with these radars these days, but is it at the level where they can track a target as they would any other?
        – just why does a BVR missile lose its effectiveness out at longer ranges? Shouldn’t it get higher quality tracking data as it approaches the vicinity of the target as well as becoming even more agile as it losses its fuel load?

        • “Outstanding! You’re like a fighter jet technology whizz-kid.”

          Well, I have been reading up on military technology since 1999 or so; especially on fighter aircraft.

          “– do you think that the Iraqi VHF radars WOULD HAVE posed a significant threat to the F-117s? There were reports that the Iraqis had detected these planes but weren’t able to utilize the information (source: Decisive Weapons, BBC. Stealth fighter episode), and you mentioned that not all the Iraqi sites had been taken out.”

          They would have detected them for sure, as for wether they would have posed a threat… not likely, considering that F-117s operated exclusively at night and that Iraqis were generally inept.

          “– Given all that, is it correct to say that electronic warfare capability was the real trump card for the Allies in Operation Desert Storm? (as well as close air support in the form of the A-10)”

          That, but especially training and organizational advantage.

          “– if Russian VHF radar “can easily detect” an F-35, do you mean that it can provide high-quality tracking data information to a missile, or is it more in the sense of being able to cue another system which can then get a better lock-on? It’s probably fair to say that the Russians are doing amazing things with these radars these days, but is it at the level where they can track a target as they would any other?”

          “Detect” as in “detect”. It is possible to have it cue in IR SAMs or interceptors, but they will be relying on onboard sensors for end-game engagement, as VHF radar by itself cannot guide a missile close enough for a successful engagement.

          “– just why does a BVR missile lose its effectiveness out at longer ranges? Shouldn’t it get higher quality tracking data as it approaches the vicinity of the target as well as becoming even more agile as it losses its fuel load?”

          1) Modern BVR missiles, excepting new ramjets such as Meteor, burn off their entire fuel load in first few seconds. Then they use that impulse to fly in a ballistic arc – like an artillery shell – towards the target. Entire time they loose energy, and any maneuvers at all mean huge loss of energy (speed) as well as reduced range. Fighter pilot can easily fly in a zig-zag pattern, forcing the missile to constantly correct its course, bleeding off speed entire time. As they loose speed, they loose lift and maneuvering capability. As a result, once they get to target they cannot actually hit it.
          2) If fired at long range, enemy can simply do a U-turn and get out of the range. Possibly without even engaging afterburners. Seeing as your typical maximum range figures are based on assumption of head-on engagement between two Mach 2(?) targets, that is… problematic.
          3) Longer range also means larger “kill box”, increasing possibility of missile not acquiring the target or detonating at less than optimal time (mostly a problem with semi-active guidance).

      • “1) Modern BVR missiles, excepting new ramjets such as Meteor, burn off their entire fuel load in first few seconds.”

        Don’t they use pulse rocket engines? (source: Wikipedia 🙂 ) Do any legacy BVRAAMs use an engine that reignites at the last part of the flight envelope to more effectively chase the target (might not be possible with solid propellant)?

        “Then they use that impulse to fly in a ballistic arc – like an artillery shell – towards the target. Entire time they loose energy, and any maneuvers at all mean huge loss of energy (speed) as well as reduced range.”

        Man, that REALLY sucks. This whole time (literally for years, because it seemed so self-evident to me so I never thought o actually check it) I imagined that they were under power for the entire flight. To get to the sorts of speeds where they’d be useful at all, this would have to mean that the plane is flying very fast to begin with (to more effectively “throw” the missile) and the engine of the missile would have to take it up to very high speed, right? But that just burns off a great deal off fuel and the IR signature of the missile warns the enemy (if he has IRST). It also seems to me that in order for the air resistance to not cut into the missile’s speed almost immediately, the missile has to be heavy for its size (for extra momentum) and obviously highly streamlined.

        “Fighter pilot can easily fly in a zig-zag pattern, forcing the missile to constantly correct its course, bleeding off speed entire time. As they loose speed, they loose lift and maneuvering capability. As a result, once they get to target they cannot actually hit it.”

        So why did planners ever think that this would be a viable weapon? Did they expect their enemies to fly straight and narrow?

        “3) Longer range also means larger “kill box”, increasing possibility of missile not acquiring the target or detonating at less than optimal time (mostly a problem with semi-active guidance).”

        Sorry, could you please explain this kill box and how it comes into play here (does it just mea area of the sky that the missile has to cover)?

        • “Do any legacy BVRAAMs use an engine that reignites at the last part of the flight envelope to more effectively chase the target (might not be possible with solid propellant)?”

          No, they don’t. That is why ramjet is so attractive.

          “To get to the sorts of speeds where they’d be useful at all, this would have to mean that the plane is flying very fast to begin with (to more effectively “throw” the missile) and the engine of the missile would have to take it up to very high speed, right?”

          Mach 4 for missile. And as I may have mentioned before, missile ranges you see cited are typically for situation where both launch platform and target are at Mach 2 and head-on collision course.

          “But that just burns off a great deal off fuel and the IR signature of the missile warns the enemy (if he has IRST).”

          Or IR MAWS like on Rafale. Missile engine also has major UV signature as well, hence popularity of UV MAWS (Rafale has IR MAWS, Gripen NG has UV MAWS, F-22 has both).

          “It also seems to me that in order for the air resistance to not cut into the missile’s speed almost immediately, the missile has to be heavy for its size (for extra momentum) and obviously highly streamlined.”

          To be fair, missiles are rather streamlined, so they have very low drag. But that also means maneuverability deficit due to lack of lift.

          “So why did planners ever think that this would be a viable weapon? Did they expect their enemies to fly straight and narrow?”

          Something like that, yes. Originally, radar-guided BVR missiles were intended as a counter to nuclear bombers – shoot them down before they can get close enough to release their payload. Since targets were huge, with no maneuvering ability to speak of, missile’s inability to shoot down highly agile targets was of no concern. But as so often happens with bureocrats and bureocracies (and militaries *are* run by bureocrats), a major idea-reality disconnect developed, and generals concluded that radar BVRAAM can be answer for *everything* (fact that they get bonuses by defense industry for promoting expensive weapons didn’t hurt either). So they produced F-105 and F-4, and rest is history (needless to say, they were proven wrong).

          That is also why I still often refer to radar-centric platforms as “bomber interceptors” despite the fact that many such aircraft (F-22, Su-27/30/35, F-15, Typhoon) are also capable dogfighters.

          “Sorry, could you please explain this kill box and how it comes into play here (does it just mea area of the sky that the missile has to cover)?”

          Basically, you know that sensors have resolution. This resolution can be divided into angular resolution and range resolution.

          CAPTOR has angular resolution of 0,05 ° at 165 km. If my calculations are correct, that would give it a “kill box” of 144 m; so if aircraft is at the center of it, missile miss distance can be 72 m. Now, missile’s own seeker is significantly longer-ranged than that, but if onboard seeker is jammed, then missile has to rely on fighter’s own radar.

      • Is the Su-35 indeed a capable dogfighter? According to the Wikipedia article on it, the plane’s wing loading is 408 kg/m2, and 500 km/m2 with full internal fuel load. Isn’t that pretty high?

        • Depends on configuration and opponent. If we take 15% fuel fraction, then Su-35 has 347 kg/m2 wing loading and 1,34 TWR. Wing loading is high, but not insurmountably so. I’d say it might be able to outmaneuver F-16C, and is definetly superior to F-35 or F-18E regardless of configuration. Against F-22, Typhoon, Rafale or Gripen NG, it is a toast.

          Since F-35 will, if everything goes according to plan, make up majority of Western air power, and even if it does not, it will be F-16C and F-18E that will make up most of it, Su-35 will definetly have a wide choice of targets it can outmaneuver.

          Tornado ADV is a capable dogfighter when matched up against B-52, after all…

      • It’d be interesting to see what a modern Su-35 (ex: a non-stealth PAK-FA) might have been able to do with the latest engines. Let’s call this Su-27DD (Delta Derivative).

        Probably the gap would close largely, especially with the newer engines (the claim is that the current top Su-35 variants have a special engine that has a T/W of about 10:1, which seems possible, but we don’t know as they classified the real numbers and the PAK-FA does have an upgrade planned on top of the AL-41 called Izdeliye 30) and OLS-50 IRST. That and if the Su-27DD had tailless delta wings with canards and LERX (or a double delta), it would end up with an even higher fuel fraction.

        The size would remain a drawback of course, but the range would be very good (fuel fraction on the Su-35BM is 0.42, so a tailless delta would be even higher). It’d be one heck of a bomber interceptor though.

  2. It’s become a roundabout way to send money to the defense industry it would seem.

    The Ramjets might see a better pk, although they are fuel constrained as well (they may not have to carry air like rockets, but they still have fuel). They’d lose lots of energy as well against maneuvering targets. The effective range would probably be much shorter than commonly cited. The IR versions will likely have a better pk, although of course, not as good as short ranged sidewinder type missiles.

    Anyways, it turns out that BVR missiles themselves may be simply too expensive to buy in bulk.
    http://comptroller.defense.gov/Portals/45/documents/defbudget/fy2015/fy2015_Weapons.pdf#page=53

    With spare parts included, it works out to ~$2.1 million (2014 USD) per missile. That’s a huge opportunity cost.

  3. You continue to claim that visual identification is needed for engagement. This claim is highly debatable. IFF has greatly improved and there are other ways to discern between friend or foe in the air too. You just need to be able to identify friend, everyone else is foe. Or vice versa. Not saying your argument is not valid to make with the info we have but, its very debatable.

    We also continue to disagree on LPI Vs RWR. You make a good argument but you are not incorporating all of the data and new technology. I have read studies and arguments that go both ways on this issue. Some of these linked from your site.

    I continue to find arguments toward one side or the other (in most things) but very little level headed un-biased argument.

    I guess for most once you take a stance you feel you have to continue to defend that stance and you lose perspective.

    Stealth is only one part of a system and, radar stealth (mostly useful at longer ranges where IR/optical range/resolution limited) only one aspect of stealth, that we agree on. EW, max speed, supercruise, climb, ceiling, and maneuverability, all contribute.

    A highly maneuverable airplane with good warning and EW capability (like Rafale) can probably be highly survivable against SAM’s or AAM without “stealth”.

    I would agree with your anti-stealth argument more on a cost benefit basis.

    When you look at added maintenance/basing needs, training sortie limits, and complexity of manufacturing you can say that stealth and some other high cost/complexity items are not tactically or strategically sound investments.

    USAF/Navy/Marines fly roughly 10,000 fixed-wing aircraft today with about 4,000 of those being fighter/strike types. Obviously the fiscal cost has not being an issue for DoD. Although it has been an issue for me personally come April every year.

    Thats the problem with limitless funding. You lose accountability and waste/inefficiencies increase because you have so much room for error.

    The mindset that we are so much ahead of every other airforce prevails in Washington and that has contributed to the issue.

    Again, want to add that now (that we have a good lead and powers are not on war stance) is the time to test new tech and the research and work that has gone into F-22, F-35 will pay huge dividends in future capabilities. The software development work alone has advanced our capabilities greatly.

    The first Jets were not better than peer piston types. AA & SA Missiles have been very poor in first 30-40 years of development. But, that development work is now the key to modern air warfare.

    • “IFF has greatly improved and there are other ways to discern between friend or foe in the air too. You just need to be able to identify friend, everyone else is foe.”

      Transponder-dependent IFF is highly unreliable and makes any aircraft nonstealthy right away. NCTR is reliable only 30% of the time. Ergo, visual ID is still the only truly reliable way of identifying the target.

      “I guess for most once you take a stance you feel you have to continue to defend that stance and you lose perspective.”

      Yes, humans are by nature conservative. Even myself, though I’d say I’m less resistant to change than most others. That being said, my “inertia” against changing stance on a topic is proportional to amount of study I’ve put into said topic.

      “USAF/Navy/Marines fly roughly 10,000 fixed-wing aircraft today with about 4,000 of those being fighter/strike types. Obviously the fiscal cost has not being an issue for DoD. Although it has been an issue for me personally come April every year.”

      It is an issue. US aircraft inventory is aging, and trying to replace it with F-35 is delusional.

      “Thats the problem with limitless funding. You lose accountability and waste/inefficiencies increase because you have so much room for error. ”
      “The mindset that we are so much ahead of every other airforce prevails in Washington and that has contributed to the issue.”

      Agreed. And these two mindsets are not necessarily independent: all too often have I heard an argument that US have best weapons/training/organization/name it… because “budget”.

      “The first Jets were not better than peer piston types.”

      Actually, they were. Far higher cruise speed enabled hit-and-run attacks against enemy formations. Cruise speed was always a significant factor in air combat, and it hasn’t changed until today. Hence ATF/F-22s supercruise requirement, Eurocanards supercruise ability, my insistence on supercruise capability combined with 40%+ fuel fraction in my fighter aircraft proposals…

      “But, that development work is now the key to modern air warfare.”

      Agreed. But technologies should not be pushed forward before they are mature. BVR missiles are only now becoming mature, with ramjet propulsion… if ramjet could be combined with IR seeker, I’d be ready to say that BVR missiles are truly mature.

      • I guess there are just different opinions on IFF. I do agree that any type does make you un-stealthy. Networking might be helpful although there is the debate about stealthiness of networking links too.

        first jets faster yes by a bit but also heavier and unreliable. The point I was trying to make is that technology has to be invested in.

        I dont advocate for a whole fleet of developmental tech (F-35). Especially since you dont know with most innovations if that tech will end up being tactically sound. But, investment pays dividends in long-run.

        Bigger budget does not always = better equipment, especially if you are wasteful and greedy. But, budget does give you ability to overcome mistakes that limited budgets cant.

        US has produced a lot of duds and a lot of top tier stuff too. But, when it makes stupid decisions budget allows it to make up for stupid decisions. I don’t advocate for this wasteful approach. For the money spent, US should have much better equipment. Not just high tech but things like gloves, boots, socks, holsters, slings, etc. Soldiers have to buy this stuff themselves because the issued stuff sucks.

        As you know I would advocate for smarter spending and big reductions in DoD budget.

        • “But, investment pays dividends in long-run.”

          Sound investment yes. But there are many dead ends, and many of these are not immediately obvious. Just take a look at how much money navies spent developing battleships between two world wars.

          “But, budget does give you ability to overcome mistakes that limited budgets cant. ”

          True, but it also makes you less careful and thorough. Best designs overall were typically created by nations that did *not* have unlimited money, or even just huge amounts of it.

    • The problem is unless you can passively determine who is friendly and who is enemy at a very long range, you are not going to be able to take advantage of BVR. If you transmit something (which networking and what the MIC calls “Sensor fusion” need), then your ability to achieve surprise is gone, which was the whole point of stealth. For that reason, active radar is a bad idea as is any type of transmission. That and you don’t want to risk a friendly fire incident.

      Perhaps by the IR signature of the enemy aircraft might work. We could see future QWIP IRST evolve in that direction (and we are seeing it improve in many ways). If the enemy has their radar on, then it’s easier with a RWR (you can tell by the frequency and distinct signature of the radar whose radar it is).

      The other issue is that once you fire the missile, your stealth is gone. A missile has a very distinct IR signature and if it doesn’t kill the target, then the enemy is aware of you. Whether or not moving to a close distance or even going for a gun kill might be a better choice is highly situation dependent.

      Even the US has budget limits. If you can choose between say, 1,000 stealth aircraft that are not so agile and 2,000 highly maneuverable non-stealth aircraft, the question becomes, which is the better choice? Numbers do matter. So do sortie rates.

      • Yeah the only way to be sure you are not detected is to not transmit. But nothing is 100%. Stealth is not 100% either.

        You can reduce your detection range and overall probability. Stealth shaping and absorbent material can (depending on who’s research/data you trust) make an aircraft almost invisible to common radar and highly degrade already limited VHF capabilities.

        Latest LPI radars (again depending on who’s research/data you trust) can also greatly reduce detection range and probability through use of power management, wide operational bandwidth, frequency agility, antenna side lobe reduction, and advanced scan patterns (modulations).

        If the enemy is transmitting it’s probable you can identify enemy through its emissions. If enemy is flying without any radiating than if needed you can identify your own aircraft through it emmisions. Anything you pick-up on radar that not radiating is foe. I even read that radar cross section can even be used to identify in some cases.

        LPI radars are useful in being able to avoid enemy receivers and at same time provide friendlies with IFF.

        F-22 costs almost twice as much as Typhoon or Rafale and more than twice Gripen so maybe these would be better choice.

        Problem is that due almost limitless budget and related acquisition woes a Rafale developed through DoD would end up costing almost as much as F-22.

        US needs to design and build its own aircraft to maintain its tech capabilities.

        Sortie rate would be issue for F-22. Even without coating aircraft is complex to maintain.

        Ps. F-22 is more than just stealth. It can supercruise faster than any and it is highly maneuverable. Its LPI AESA and EW suite is top of the line. Its big but it can carry a heavy load and lots of fuel.

        F-22 would greatly benefit from HMCS, and a good AA IRST. F-35 DAS would give it best situational awareness in industry.

        .

  4. Some points i’d like to say:

    – When you need to intercept a plane coming from the front line, you go head on, as faster as possible.
    – In war (a real one), ROE don’t need visual indentification all time:
    IFF, known number of the targets and their position from the front line, or known positions of airborne friends planes, are enough.
    – If you’re sure to have the longest range missile on board, comparing to the enemies one, you can allow you to open your radar from far.
    – You can be sure that tactics like fighters of a same wing, with radar on and others off, will be use.
    – A missile can be fired by one plane (radar off), “close” to the target, but guided by another one (radar on), farer from the target.

    More generaly, things are not as simple as papers datas in a serious war :

    Imagine a war theatre with radio jamming, radar jamming, ground radars, AWACS, Link 16, fighters with radar on, fighters with radar off, using other sensors, some SAM, and add a front line in the middle of that… You’ll have a sort of cahos trying to organise itself!

    • “IFF, known number of the targets and their position from the front line, or known positions of airborne friends planes, are enough.”

      If they are known, which is a rarity, especially seeing as AWACS won’t survive for long

      “– If you’re sure to have the longest range missile on board, comparing to the enemies one, you can allow you to open your radar from far.”

      True. But missile’s effective range is always a fraction of maximum range. Plus, if you are using radar, or radar missiles, then enemy can jam your sensors, which again means engagement distance that is fraction of what you see in brochures (possibly even visual-range).

      “– A missile can be fired by one plane (radar off), “close” to the target, but guided by another one (radar on), farer from the target.”

      In theory, yes. But that requires both radar and datalink to penetrate jamming.

      “Imagine a war theatre with radio jamming, radar jamming, ground radars, AWACS, Link 16, fighters with radar on, fighters with radar off, using other sensors, some SAM, and add a front line in the middle of that… You’ll have a sort of cahos trying to organise itself!”

      Aye, and more chaotic situation is, more important human factor becomes when compared to technological one.

    • That’s why the focus on networking, various sensors, and data/sensor fusion. To try to give you options and some clarity/situational awareness.

      Its not just important what happens in the air but also on the ground.

      How fast can you turnaround a flight and put it back in the air (sortie rate), how easy is plane to maintain, can plane be maintained/serviced in dispersed site (most large airbases are likely to be hit hard in opening salvos of war between major powers), can plane use roads and dirt/grass strips to land and take off, are your air bases hardened and redundant and can you repair fast (will provide some level of usability for large bases), can your factories quickly produce replacement aircraft, parts and ordinance, Etc.

      Training of pilot (and ground crews) is the one most important aspect in air-combat effectiveness and, pilot must train in their aircraft often not just T-38 types or simulators.

      Each aircraft has its strengths and weaknesses and must be flown differently. Pilot must know how to properly use strengths and hide weaknesses.

      That is why highly complex and expensive platforms also hurt training.

      Overall If I were an air-boss of a nation (India, GCC, Holland, Canada, etc) that is importing their airforce (political/strategic considerations apart) I would pick Gripen. Its just well balanced and smartly designed. Most importantly, it is easy to manufacture and maintain and can be flown and serviced from dispersed sites. It is also least expensive of modern types.

  5. As this website has noted on a number of occasions, radar stealth is but one of a number of facets of the concept of aircraft stealth, albeit the one that has received the overwhelming share of attention and development. I came across some references to a classified UK program “Chameleon”, between the MoD and BAE during the ’90’s and ’00’s to examine just how much the visual and infrared signature of an airframe could be reduced to increase platform survivability. The work apparently also had a spin-off benefit in noise reduction. Apparently “BAE refuses to discuss the work or to release imagery of the modified aircraft.” Oblique reference is also made to contemporaneous US efforts on optical stealth, but no detail is provided. It is interesting to see work that has been done on the other facets of aircraft “stealth”.

    http://militarynuts.com/index.php?showtopic=224

    Aviation Week & Space Technology
    12/20/2004, page 31

    “The British Ministry of Defence and BAE Systems are quietly developing a range of visual and infra-red signature reduction technologies for aircraft … in an effort that has included flying demonstrators.”

    “The classified research began around the time BAE, then British Aerospace, started examining options to replace the Royal Air Force’s Panavia Strike Aircraft. That work led to a Testbed/Replica stealth aircraft design. A non-flying model was manufactured in the late 1990s.”

    “The U.K.’s conceptual studies started in the late 1980s, when candidate technologies were identified. Subscale models and tests followed to reduce technology risk, according to the company.
    Visual stealth work looked at the use of fiber-optic lighting to diminish the contrast between an aircraft and the predominant background. Light-emitting diodes are also thought to have been used as part of the Chameleon program, using a Hawk advanced jet trainer as a test platform.”

    “The work was carried out at the company’s Advanced Technology Demonstration Center, at Warton in northern England. This site was also responsible for the Testbed/Replica low-observable aircraft design effort. ”

    “BAE Systems modified its demonstrator Hawk, the ZA101, for IR signature risks. A Jetstream twin-turboprop was fitted with sensors to measure the modified Hawk’s IR signature. Airframe coatings, minimizing IR hotspots in the engine exhaust, and active devices were tried to reduce the IR signature. One active device is a deployable shielding system intended to limit the IR signature from all angles except directly behind, to the point where certain classes of heat-seeking missiles would be unable to acquire the target at operational ranges.
    For the initial flight tests, the shielding device was fitted to the jet-pipe of the Hawk. The IR shield is designed to be deployed when an IR threat is encountered, and then retracted to a conformal stowed position.”

    The Project was still ongoing in 2007:

    “U.K. uses Hawk for LO testing”

    http://www.vnfawing.com/forum/viewtopic.php?t=3907&sid=650a7c5551f9500ed0516583058310c5

    Aviation Week & Space Technology
    02/26/2007, page 34

    “Further details emerge on British stealth effort to reduce visual/IR signature”

    “BAE Systems used a Hawk jet-trainer for a range of visual and IR signature reduction trials. Active systems were housed in the nose, intake and fin root blisters, as well as on wing pylons.
    The Hawk airframe was treated with passive coatings and exhaust system hotspot treatments. A deployable engine shroud was also trialed in an effort to reduce the infrared signature from the aircraft’s engine exhaust plume”

    “The modifications form part of a considerable amount of still-sensitive signature-reduction research being carried out by BAE Systems. This is intended to benefit new platforms, such as unmanned combat air vehicles, but will also aid aircraft like the Eurofighter Typhoon.
    The airframe has several blister fairings around areas normally associated with IR hotspots. These include the nose, vertical fin root and inlet ducts. Two small pods associated with the trials are carried on wing pylons. The blisters also appear to have small optical apertures, likely related to visual signature reduction.”

    “BAE began to explore optical stealth technology as far back as the 1980s. The use of fiber-optic lighting of the airframe as a means of blending the aircraft with the background was eventually tested. The company has also carried out research into determining the wavelength of received optical radiation. These attempts may also have fed into its optical stealth effort.
    A joint demonstrator program between BAE and the British Defense Ministry was run using a company Hawk, registered ZA101, as the test platform. Along with passive coatings and shielding devices, the aircraft utilized some form of active system to considerably reduce the detectable infrared signature of the platform. ”

    “The Hawk test aircraft was fitted and flown with at least one design of an infrared engine shroud. However, along with a clamshell plate arrangement BAE also examined the use of ribbons of a flexible heat-resistant material that, when deployed, formed an extend tube covering a significant element of the exhaust plume. This approach has the advantage of being less complex and physically bulky, as well as being lighter and far easier to retrofit to aircraft already in service.
    The material would both reflect and to some extent absorb heat from the engine exhaust. It could also be treated with a radar absorber to reduce the electromagnetic signature associated with the nozzle area. It is not known whether this technology has also been test-flown.
    The IR-suppression technology could also have a spin-off in the commercial aviation sector where there is increased concern over the vulnerability of passenger aircraft to man-portable surface-to-air missiles. The shroud technology also offers a significant reduction in aircraft noise footprint, which would also be attractive to commercial operators.”

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