China, Russia Could Make U.S. Stealth Tech Obsolete

Discussion in 'Americas' started by Oracle, Jun 7, 2011.

  1. Oracle

    Oracle New Member

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    Photo: B-2 stealth bomber (U.S. Air Force)

    It’s been a pillar of the U.S. military’s approach to high-tech warfare for decades. And now, it could be become obsolete in just a few years.

    Stealth technology — which today gives U.S. jets the nearly unparalleled ability to slip past hostile radar — may soon be unable to keep American aircraft cloaked. That’s the potentially startling conclusion of a new report from Barry Watts, a former member of the Pentagon’s crystal-ball-gazing Office of Net Assessment and current analyst with the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments in Washington.

    “The advantages of stealth … may be eroded by advances in sensors and surface-to-air missile systems, especially for manned strike platforms operating inside defended airspace,” Watts cautions in his 43-page report The Maturing Revolution in Military Affairs (.pdf), published last week.

    That could come as a big shock to the U.S. Air Force, which has bet its future on radar-dodging technology, to the tune of half-a-trillion dollars over the next 30 years. The Navy, on the other hand, might have reason to say, “I told you so.”

    That is, if Watts’ prediction comes true — and that’s a big “if,” the analyst admits.


    “In recent years there has been speculation that ongoing advances in radar detection and tracking will, in the near future, obviate the ability of all-aspect, low-observable aircraft such as the B-2, F-22 and F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, aka JSF, to survive inside denied airspace,” Watts writes, referring to America’s stealth bombers and fighter jets.

    Stealth-killing advances include VHF and UHF radars being developed by Russia and China, and a “passive-detection” system devised by Czech researchers. The latter “uses radar, television, cellular phone and other available signals of opportunity reflected off stealthy aircraft to find and track them,” Watts explains.

    These new detection systems could reverse a 30-year trend that has seen the U.S. Air Force gain an increasing advantage over enemy defenses. That phenomenon began with the introduction of the F-117 stealth fighter in the late 1980s, followed by the addition of the stealthy B-2 (pictured) in the ’90s and, more recently, the F-22.

    So far, the Air Force has only ever fielded a few hundred stealth aircraft, requiring it to constantly upgrade some nonstealthy fighters. But the flying branch plans to purchase more than 1,700 F-35s (at more than $100 million a pop) from Lockheed Martin in coming decades, plus up to 100 new stealth bombers. In that sense, the stealth era is only now truly dawning — just as effective counter-measures are nearly ready, Watts points out.

    In that sense, the Air Force’s stealth gamble could turn into very, very long odds.

    Comparatively, the Navy has played it safe. At the same time the Air Force was investing its research and development dollars in stealth, the Navy has taken a different approach to defeating enemy defenses. Where the Air Force plans to slip past radars, the Navy means to jam them with electronic noisemakers or destroy them with radar-seeking missiles. That’s why the only radar-killing planes in the Pentagon inventory belong to the Navy — and why, until the forthcoming F-35C, the Navy has never bought a stealth fighter.

    Nowhere is that philosophical difference more apparent than in the Pentagon’s on-again, off-again effort to develop jet-powered killer drones. The Navy’s X-47 drone, built by Northrop, is minimally stealthy. Boeing’s Phantom Ray, intended mostly for Air Force programs, is arguably as stealthy as an F-35 in certain scenarios.

    There’s still a chance the Air Force’s bet on stealth could pay off, Watts writes. That largely depends on two capabilities planned for the F-35.

    First, there’s “the JSF’s sensor suite and computational power,” which Watts explains “can be easily upgraded over time due to the plane’s open avionics architecture, giv[ing] the F-35 an ability to adjust its flight path in real time in response to pop-up threats, something neither the F-117 nor the B-2 have been able to do.”

    Second, the F-35’s radar, a so-called “electronically scanned array,” could in theory be used to jam an enemy radar or even slip malicious software code into its control system.

    Neither of these capabilities is actually a form of stealth, per se. Rather, they would complement the F-35’s ability to absorb or deflect radar waves. Described uncharitably, the Air Force has had to add nonstealthy skills to its stealth fighters, just to help them survive.

    Watts doesn’t address one other way the Air Force could preserve its stealth advantage: by speeding up the development of drone aircraft — which, by virtue of their smaller size, have the potential to be much stealthier than any manned aircraft.

    It’s also worth noting that America’s biggest rivals don’t doubt the continuing relevance of stealthy planes. Russia and China have both unveiled new stealth-fighter prototypes in the last two years.

    The way Watts describes it, the “end of stealth” is just one of the many big changes that could occur in near-future warfare — big emphasis on “could.” “The honest answer to the question about how fundamentally war’s conduct will change — and how soon — remains: It depends.”

    Wired
     
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  3. LETHALFORCE

    LETHALFORCE Moderator Moderator

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    China and Russia are still many years behind USA in many weapons no one is close to having a Global strike weapon.
     
  4. nrj

    nrj Stars and Ambassadors Stars and Ambassadors

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    :pound:

    Atleast wait till Russia/China formally induct 1 stealth fighter.
     
  5. Oracle

    Oracle New Member

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    Russia is, well behind.

    China has already inducted J-20 super stealth fighter bomber. JF-17 is stealth too.
     
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  6. LETHALFORCE

    LETHALFORCE Moderator Moderator

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    Pigeons are also stealth.
     
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  7. satish007

    satish007 Senior Member Senior Member

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    very good reason to get more money from Congress.
     
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  8. well the article is indeed good.stealth technology can always be countered by improving radar detection.even the swordfish radar is able to track golf ball type targets at 600-800km.only the united states had made tremendous investment in stealth technology.but the us stealth technology was developed always keeping in mind that radar detection technology would not improve.it is like aircraft vs sams,or tanks vs anti-tank missiles etc.anti stealth technology is always at advantage since american stealth technology is actually a vlo technology.none of b-2,f-22 in us inventory has zero rcs.they depend on a combination of shaping and radar absorbing materials to reduce radar signature.i think india should also invest in these type of anti-stealth technology as both pakistan and china will induct stealth plane in the next two decades.
     
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  9. Razor

    Razor CIDs from Tamilnadu Senior Member

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    Not "reason", the word you are looking for is "excuse".
     
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  10. sandeepdg

    sandeepdg Senior Member Senior Member

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    Who told you China inducted the J-20 ?? It is still 4-6 years away from final induction into PLAAF, it was just flight tested for the first time this year !! Russia flight tested the PAK-FA in 2010.

    JF-17 is stealth ?? :pound: :pound:

    Oracle, your knowledge seems to be slipping ! JF-17 is just like any other 4th generation MRCA like Mig-29 or Mirage 2000, with no stealth whatsoever !
     
  11. pi314159

    pi314159 Guest

    sandeepdg you are too serious:) Talking about stealth, I heard many members here claim LCA is stealthier than JF-17 because of its small size and use more composites. Seems American forgot LCA:)
     
  12. Armand2REP

    Armand2REP CHINI EXPERT Veteran Member

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    It was clearly a joke... hence the italics.
     
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  13. sandeepdg

    sandeepdg Senior Member Senior Member

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    Oh yeah, well maybe I slipped up in understanding that ! Sorry for my goof up, Oracle !!
     
  14. Dark_Prince

    Dark_Prince Regular Member

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    LCA stealthier than Junk Fighter-17.......do u have any doubts???? :)

    Nope, Americans didn't forget LCA as they will induct them soon and position them near Gulf of Korea and South sea to tackle Hefty Chinese fighters (insider info)....hence did not include in the list next to Chinese copy cats!! :D
     
  15. nimo_cn

    nimo_cn Senior Member Senior Member

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    No doubt about that, LCA is much stealthier than JF-17 when in the sky because LCA never gets the chance to fly.


    Classic!

    More advertisements need to be done about LCA, maybe another 10 years is needed to pull that off.
     

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