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INTRODUCTION: Stealth or low observability (as it is scientifically known) is one of the most misunderstood and misinterpreted concepts in military aviation by the common man. Stealth aircraft are considered as invisible aircraft, which dominate the skies. With an additional boost from Hollywood action movies, stealth is today termed as the concept invincibility rather than invisibility. Though, the debate still continues on whether stealth technology can make an aircraft invincible it was found that stealth aircraft are detectable by radar. The motive behind incorporating stealth technology in an aircraft is not just to avoid missiles being fired at is but also to give total deniability to covert operations. This is very much useful to strike targets where it is impossible to reach. Thus we can clearly say that the job of a stealth aircraft pilot is not to let others know that he was ever there. 1.1 WHAT IS STEALTH? In simple terms, stealth technology allows an aircraft to be partially invisible to Radar or any other means of detection. This doesn't allow the aircraft to be fully invisible on radar. Stealth technology cannot make the aircraft invisible to enemy or friendly radar. All it can do is to reduce the detection range or an aircraft. This is similar to the camouflage tactics used by soldiers in jungle warfare. Unless the soldier comes near you, you can't see him. Though this gives a clear and safe striking distance for the aircraft, there is still a threat from radar systems, which can detect stealth aircraft. 3. The Russian 1R13 radar system is very much capable of detecting the F-117 "Night Hawk" stealth fighter. There are also some other radar systems made in other countries, which are capable of detecting the F-117. During the Gulf war the Iraqis were able to detect the F-117 but failed to eliminate its threat because of lack of coordination. The most unforgettable incident involving the detection and elimination of a stealth aircraft was during the NATO air-war over Yugoslavia. This was done by a Russian built "not so advanced" SAM (possibly the SA-3 or SA-6). The SAM system presumably used optical detection for target acquisition in the case. 1.2 ANATOMY OF RADAR TECHNOLOGY: Radar is something that is in use all around us, although it is normally invisible. Air traffic control uses radar to track planes both on the ground and in the air, and also to guide planes in for smooth landings. Police use radar to detect the speed of passing motorists. NASA uses radar to map the Earth and other planets, to track satellites and space debris and to help with things like docking and maneuvering. The military uses it to detect the enemy and to guide weapons.

Fig-1: Operation Specialist 2nd Class Gilbert Lundgren operates radar equipment in the combat information
center of USS Carney

Meteorologists use radar to track storms, hurricanes and tornadoes. You even see a form of radar at many grocery stores when the doors open automatically! Obviously, radar is an extremely useful technology. When people use radar, they are usually trying to accomplish one of three things: (a) Detect the presence of an object at a distance - Usually the "something" is moving, like an airplane, but radar can also be used to detect stationary objects buried underground. In some cases, radar can identify an object as well; for example, it can identify the type of aircraft it has detected. (b) Detect the speed of an object - This is the reason why police use radar. (c) Map something - The space shuttle and orbiting satellites use something called Synthetic Aperture Radar to create detailed topographic maps of the surface of planets and moons. All three of these activities can be accomplished using two things you may be familiar with from everyday life: echo and Doppler shift. These two concepts are easy to understand in the realm of sound because your ears hear echo and Doppler shift every day. Radar makes use of the same techniques using radio waves.

1.3 ECHO AND DOPPLER SHIFT Echo is something you experience all the time. If you shout into a well or a canyon, the echo comes back a moment later. The echo occurs because some of the sound waves in your shout reflect off of a surface (either the water at the bottom of the well or the canyon wall on the far side) and travel back to your ears.

The length of time between the moment you shout and the moment that you hear the echo is determined by the distance between you and the surface that creates the echo. Doppler shift is also common. You probably experience it daily (often without realizing it). Doppler shift occurs when sound is generated by, or reflected off of, a moving object. Doppler shift in the extreme creates sonic booms (see below). Here's how to understand Doppler shift (you may also want to try this experiment in an empty by Doppler shift.


Fig-2: Calculating depth with the concept of echo

When you shout into a well, the sound of your shout travels down the well and is reflected (echoes) off the surface of the water at the bottom of the well. If you measure the time it takes for the echo to return and if you know the speed of sound, you can calculate the depth of the well fairly accurately. Here's what happens. The speed of sound through the air in the parking lot is fixed. For simplicity of calculation, let's say its 600 mph (the exact speed is determined by the air's pressure, temperature and humidity). Imagine that the car is standing still, it is exactly 1 mile away from you and it toots its horn for exactly one minute. The sound waves from the horn will propagate from the car toward you at a rate of 600 mph. What you will hear is a six-second delay (while the sound travels 1 mile at 600 mph) followed by exactly one minute's worth of sound.

1.5 SONIC BOOM: While we're here on the topic of sound and motion, we can also understand sonic booms. Say the car was moving toward you at exactly the speed of sound -- 700 mph or so. The car is blowing its horn. The sound waves generated by the horn cannot go any faster than the speed of sound, so both the car and the horn are coming at you at 700 mph, so all of the sound coming from the car "stacks up." You hear nothing, but you can see the car approaching. At exactly the same moment the car arrives, so does all of its sound and it is LOUD! That is a sonic boom. The same phenomenon happens when a boat travels through water faster than waves travel through the water (waves in a lake move at a speed of perhaps 5 mph -- all waves travel through their medium at a fixed speed). The waves that the boat generates "stack up" and form the V-shaped bow wave (wake) that you see behind the boat. The bow wave is really a sonic boom of sorts. It is the stacked-up combination of all of the waves the boat has generated. The wake forms a V shape, and the angle of the V is controlled by the speed of the boat.

Fig-3: Doppler shift: The person behind the car hears a lower tone than the driver because the car is moving away. The person in front of the car hears a higher tone than the driver because the car is approaching.

Now let's say that the car is moving toward you at 60 mph. It starts from a mile away and toots it's horn for exactly one minute. You will still hear the six-second delay. However, the sound will only play for 54 seconds. That's because the car will be right next to you after one minute, and the sound at the end of the minute gets to you instantaneously. The car (from the driver's perspective) is still blaring its horn for one minute. Because the car is moving, however, the minute's worth of sound gets packed into 54 seconds from your perspective. The same numbers of sound waves are packed into a smaller amount of time. Therefore, their frequency is increased, and the horn's tone sounds higher to you. As the car passes you and moves away, the process is reversed and the sound expands to fill more time. Therefore, the tone is

lower. You can combine echo and doppler shift in the following way. Say you send out a loud sound toward a car moving toward you. Some of the sound waves will bounce off the car (an echo). Because the car is moving toward you, however, the sound waves will be compressed. Therefore, the sound of the echo will have a higher pitch than the original sound you sent. If you measure the pitch of the echo, you can determine how fast the car is going.

2. UNDERSTANDING RADAR: We have seen that the echo of a sound can be used to determine how far away something is, and we have also seen that we can use the Doppler shift of the echo to determine how fast something is going. It is therefore possible to create sound radar and that is exactly what sonar is. Submarines and boats use sonar all the time. You could use the same principles with sound in the air, but sound in the air has a couple of problems: (a) Sound doesn't travel very far -- maybe a mile at the most. (b) Almost everyone can hear sounds, so sound radar would definitely disturb the neighbours (you can eliminate most of this problem by using ultrasound instead of audible sound). (c) Because the echo of the sound would be very faint, it is likely that it would be hard to detect. Radar therefore uses radio waves instead of sound. Radio waves travel far, are invisible to humans and are easy to detect even when they are faint. Let's take a typical radar set designed to detect airplanes in flight. The radar set turns on its transmitter and shoots out a short, high-intensity burst of high-frequency radio waves.

Fig-3: Left: antennas at goldstone deep space communications complex (part of nasa's deep space network) help provide radio communications for NASA's interplanetary spacecraft. Right: surface search radar and air search radar are mounted on the foremast of a guided missile destroyer.

The burst might last a microsecond. The radar set then turns off its transmitter, turns on its receiver and listens for an echo. The radar set measures the time it takes for the echo to arrive, as well as the Doppler shift of the echo. Radio waves travel at the speed of light, roughly 1,000 feet per microsecond; so if the radar set has a good high-speed clock, it can measure the distance of the airplane very accurately. Using special signal processing equipment, the radar set can also measure the Doppler shift very accurately and determine the speed of the airplane. In ground-based radar, there's a lot more potential interference than in air-based radar. When police radar shoots out a pulse, it echoes off of all sorts of objects fences, bridges, mountains, buildings. The easiest way to remove all this sort of clutter is to filter it out by recognizing that it is not Doppler-shifted. Police radar looks only for Doppler-shifted signals, and because the radar beam is tightly focused it hits only one car. Police are now using a laser technique to measure the speed of cars. This technique is called lidar, and it uses light instead of radio waves.

3. ABOUT STEALTH TECHNOLOGY: The concept behind the stealth technology is very simple. As a matter of fact it is totally the principle of reflection and absorption that makes aircraft "stealthy". Deflecting the incoming radar waves into another direction and thus reducing the number of waves, which returns to the radar. Another concept that is followed is to absorb the incoming radar waves totally and to redirect the absorbed electromagnetic energy in another direction. Whatever may be the method used, the level of stealth an aircraft can achieve depends totally on the design and the substance with which it is made of. The idea is for the radar antenna to send out a burst of radio energy, which is then reflected back by any object it happens to encounter. The radar antenna measures the time it takes for the reflection to arrive, and with that information can tell how far away the object is. The metal body of an airplane is very good at reflecting radar signals, and this makes it easy to find and track airplanes with radar equipment. The goal of stealth technology is to make an airplane invisible to radar. There are two different ways to create invisibility: (a) The airplane can be shaped so that any radar signals it reflects are reflected away from the radar equipment. (b) The airplane can be covered in materials that absorb radar signals. Most conventional aircraft have a rounded shape. This shape makes them aerodynamic, but it also creates a very efficient radar reflector. The round shape means that no matter where the radar signal hits the plane, some of the signal gets reflected back. The below given picture illustrates the phenomenon as can be clearly seen from the fig-4, as the aircraft has rounded shape the radar signals from the transmitter

directly strike the tip and reflect back with full efficiency to the receiver. Hence the aircraft can be detected very easily by the RADAR and hence by the counter parts.

Fig-4: Effect of round surface

A stealth aircraft, on the other hand, is made up of completely flat surfaces and very sharp edges. When a radar signal hits a stealth plane, the signal reflects away at an angle, like this:

Fig-5: Effect of sharp surface

In addition, surfaces on a stealth aircraft can be treated so they absorb radar energy as well. The overall result is that a stealth aircraft like an F-117A can have the radar signature of a small bird rather than an airplane. The only exception is when the plane banks -- there will often be a moment when one of the panels of the plane will perfectly reflect a burst of radar energy back to the antenna

3.1 RAS (RADAR ABSORBENT SURFACES): RAS (Radar Absorbent Surfaces) are the surfaces on the aircraft, which can deflect the incoming radar waves and reduce the detection range. RAS works due to the angles at which the structures on the aircraft's fuselage or the fuselage itself are placed. These structures can be anything from wings to a refueling boom on the aircraft. The extensive use of RAS is clearly visible in the F-117 "Night Hawk". Due to the facets (as they are called) on the fuselage, most of the incoming radar waves are reflected to another direction. Due to these facets on the fuselage, the F-117 is a very unstable aircraft. The concept behind the RAS is that of reflecting a light beam from a torch with a mirror. The angle at which the reflection takes place is also more important. When we consider a mirror being rotated from 0o to 90o, the amount of light that is reflected in the direction of the light beam is more. At 90o, maximum amount of light that is reflected back to same direction as the light beam's source. On the other hand when the mirror is tilted above 90o and as it proceeds to 180o, the amount of light reflected in the same direction decreases drastically. This makes the aircraft like F-117 stealthy.

3.2 RADAR ABSORBENT MATERIALS (RAM): Radar absorbent surfaces absorb the incoming radar waves rather than deflecting it in another direction. RAS totally depends on the material with which the surface of the aircraft is made. Though the composition of this material is a top secret. The F-117 extensively uses RAM to reduce its radar signature or its radar cross section. The RAS is believed to be silicon based inorganic compound. This is assumed by the information that the RAM coating on the B-2 is not water proof. This is just a supposition and may not be true. What we know is that the RAM coating over the B-2 is placed like wrapping a cloth over the plane. When radar sends a beam in the direction of the B-2, the radar waves are absorbed by the planes surface and are redirected to another direction after it is absorbed. This reduces the radar signature of the aircraft.

3.3 INFRARED (IR): Another important factor that influences the stealth capability of an aircraft is the IR (infrared) signature given out by the plane. Usually planes are visible in thermal imaging systems because of the high temperature exhaust they give out. This is a great disadvantage to stealth aircraft as missiles also have IR guidance system. The IR signatures of stealth aircraft are minute when compared to the signature of a conventional fighter or any other military aircraft. If reducing the radar signature of an aircraft is tough,

then reducing the IR signature of the aircraft is tougher. It will be like flying a plane with no engines. The reduced IR signature totally depends on the engine and where the engine is placed in an aircraft. Engines for stealth aircraft are specifically built to have a very low IR signature. The technology behind this is top secret like others in stealth aircraft. Another main aspect that reduces the IR signature of a stealth aircraft is to place the engines deep into the fuselage. This is done in stealth aircraft like the B-2, F-22 and the JSF. The IR reduction scheme used in F-117 is very much different from the others. The engines are placed deep within the aircraft like any stealth aircraft and at the outlet, a section of the fuselage deflects the exhaust to another direction. This is useful for deflecting the hot exhaust gases in another direction.

4. METHODS OF AVOIDING DETECTION: There are some more methods by which planes can avoid detection. These methods do not need any hitech equipment to avoid detection. Some of them have been used for years together by pilots to avoid detection. One of the main efforts taken by designers of the stealth aircraft of today is to carry the weapons payload of the aircraft internally. This has shown that carrying weapons internally can considerably decrease the radar cross-section of the aircraft. Bombs and Missiles have a tendency to reflect the incoming radar waves to a higher extent. Providing missiles with RAM and RAS is impossible by the cost of these things. Thus the missiles are carried in internal bombays which are opened only when the weapons are released. Aircraft has used another method of avoiding detection for a very long time. Ground Radars can use the radar waves or electro-magnetic energy of planes radar and locate it. An aircraft can remain undetected just by turning off his radar. In case of some of the modern stealth aircraft, it uses its wingman in tandem to track its target and destroy it. It is done in the following way. The fighter, which is going to attack moves forward, the wingman (the second aircraft) on the other hand remains at a safe distance from the target which the other fighter is approaching. The wingman provides the other fighter with the radar location of the enemy aircraft by a secured IFDL (In Flight Data Link). Thus the enemy radar is only able to detect the wingman while the attacking fighter approaches the enemy without making any sharp turns. This is done not to make any sudden variations in a stealth aircraft's radar signature. Thus the fighter, who moves forward, is able to attack the enemy without being detected.

4.1 PLASMA STEALTH: Plasma stealth technology is what can be called as "Active stealth technology" in scientific terms. This technology was first developed by the Russians. It is a milestone in the field of stealth technology. The technology behind this not at all new. The plasma thrust technology was used in the Soviet / Russian space program. Later the same engine was used to power the American Deep Space 1 probe. In plasma stealth, the aircraft injects a stream of plasma in front of the aircraft. The plasma will cover the entire body of the fighter and will absorb most of the electromagnetic energy of the radar waves, thus making the aircraft difficult to detect. The same method is used in Magneto Hydro Dynamics. Using Magneto Hydro Dynamics, an aircraft can propel itself to great speeds. Plasma stealth will be incorporated in the MiG-35 "Super Fulcrum / Raptor Killer". This is a fighter which is an advanced derivative of the MiG29. Initial trials have been conducted on this technology, but most of the results have proved to be productive.

4.2 DETECTION METHODS FOR STEALTH AIRCRAFT: Whenever a technology is developed for military purposes, another technology is also developed to counter that technology. There are strong efforts to develop a system that can counter the low obervability of the fifth generation stealth aircraft. There are ways of detection and elimination of a low observable aircraft but this doesn't give a 100% success rate at present. On a radar screen, aircraft will have their radar cross sections with respect to their size. This helps the radar to identify that the radar contact it has made is an aircraft. Conventional aircraft are visible on the radar screen because of its relative size. On the other hand, the relative size of a stealth aircraft on the radar screen will be that of a large bird. This is how stealth aircraft are ignored by radar and thus detection is avoided. A proven method to detect and destroy stealth aircraft is to triangulate its location with a network of radar systems. This was done while the F-117 was shot down during the NATO offensive over Yugoslavia. A new method of detecting low observable aircraft is just over the horizon. Scientists have found a method to detect stealth aircraft with the help of microwaves similar to the ones emitted by the cell phone towers. Nothing much is known about this technology, but the US military seems to be very keen about doing more research on this. 5. DISADVANTAGES OF STEALTH TECHNOLOGY: Stealth technology has its own disadvantages like other technologies. Stealth aircraft cannot fly as fast or is not maneuverable like conventional aircraft. The F-22 and the aircraft of its category proved this wrong up to an extent. Though the F-22 may be fast or maneuverable, it can't go beyond Mach 2 and cannot

make turns like the Su-37. Another serious disadvantage with the stealth aircraft is the reduced amount of payload it can carry. As most of the payload is carried internally in a stealth aircraft to reduce the radar signature, weapons can only occupy a less amount of space internally. On the other hand a conventional aircraft can carry much more payload than any stealth aircraft of its class. Whatever may be the disadvantage a stealth aircraft can have, the biggest of all disadvantages that it faces is its sheer cost. Stealth aircraft literally costs its weight in gold. Fighters in service and in development for the USAF like the B-2 ($2 billion), F-117 ($70 million) and the F-22 ($100 million) are the costliest planes in the world. After the cold war, the number of B-2 bombers was reduced sharply because of its staggering price tag and maintenance charges. There is a possible solution for this problem. In the recent past the Russian design firms Sukhoi and Mikhoyan Gurevich (MiG) have developed fighters which will have a price tag similar to that of the Su-30MKI. This can be a positive step to make stealth technology affordable for third world countries.

6. STEALTH AIRCRAFT OF YESTERYEARS, TODAY AND TOMORROW: Stealth technology is a concept that is not at all new. During the Second World War, allied aircraft used tin and aluminum foils in huge numbers to confuse German radar installations. This acted as a cover for allied bombers to conduct air raids. This method was later used as chaffs by aircrafts to dodge radar guided missiles. The first stealth aircraft was the F-117 developed by Lockheed Martin. It was a topsecret project developed by its Skunk Works unit. The F-117 was only revealed during the late 80s and then saw action in the Persian Gulf. In due course of time the B-2 was developed as a successor to the B2. Though both of them serve different purposes, the B-2 went a step ahead of the F-117. The B-2 was developed to deliver nuclear weapons and other guided and unguided bombs. On the other hand the F-117 was developed to deliver its precision laser guided bombs. Another stealth aircraft, which made a lot of promises and in the end ended up in a trashcan, was the A-12. It was a fighter that was designed to replace the F-14 and F-18 in the future. The capabilities of this aircraft were boasted to such an extent that the project ended up in a big mess. Billions of dollars were wasted for nothing. Stealth technology became famous with the ATF contest. The Boeing-Lockheed YF-22 and the McDonell DouglasGrumman YF-23 fought for the multi-billion contract to build the fighter that would take the USAF into the fifth generation fighter era. The Boeing-Lockheed won the contract and the F-22 was approved to be the replacement for the F-15 "Eagle" interceptor. America now has a competitors, Russia decided to respond to the development of the F-22 by making the Su-47 (S-37) "Berkut" and the MiG-35 "Super Fulcrum / Raptor Killer". These fighters were developed by the two leading aviation firms in Russia

Sukhoi and Mikhoyan Gurevich (MiG). The future of these projects totally depends on the funding which will be provided to the Russian defense sector. This time Boeing developed the X-32 and the Lockheed its X-35. With the experience gained from developing the F-22, they were tasked with making a replacement for the F-16. This saw great technological advances, as they had to make the first operational supersonic VSOL aircraft. Lockheed martin took the technical assistance of Russian scientists who developed the Yak-141. The Yak-141 is the first supersonic VSTOL aircraft. In the end the Lockheed team with its X-35 won the contract and the fighter was re-designated as the F-35. Many projects remain over the horizon that will use stealth technology as its primary capability. They come from some of the most unlikely contenders. These projects include the Euro JSF, which will be designed by the team that developed the EF-2000. Russia is stepping forward with its LFS project with the S-54 and other designs. Two new entries into this field will be India and China. India will be introducing its MCA, which is a twin engine fighter without vertical stabilizers. This fighter will use thrust vectoring instead of rudders. China will be introducing the J-12 (F-12/XXJ) which is equivalent to US fighter F-22.

7. ADVANTAGES AND APPLICATIONS: The benefits of stealth apply not only to platforms but to a lot of weapons as well. Anti-surface munitions like the JSOW, JASSM, Apache/SCALP/Storm Shadow, Taurus/KEPD and many others are specifically shaped and treated to minimize their radar and IR signatures. This has two useful payoffs: On the one hand, the weapon itself becomes less vulnerable to enemy defensive systems, which means that fewer of the weapons launched will be shot down before reaching their target(s). This in turn means that fewer weapons and their parent platforms need to be allocated to any given mission, and finally the end result is that a greater number of targets can be confidently engaged with a given force. The other benefit is the advantage of surprise and its effect in cases where shrinking the enemys available reaction time is of the essence. A good example of such a situation is a typical OCA strike against an airfield. If non-stealthy strike aircraft or stand-off weapons are used, it is quite likely that they will be detected far enough out that the enemy will have some time available (even just 4-5 mins will do) to gets many of his ready-to-fly aircraft in the air and fly them somewhere else to preserve them.. Contrast this with a situation where, as a result of using stealthy. Weapons and/or platforms, the base is caught virtually napping and the attack is detected so perilously close that the enemy Has no time to get anything in the air but instead can only rely on his ground-based terminal defences. This can mean the difference between the base suffering little or no damage and being virtually obliterated.


Stealth technology is clearly the future of air combat. In the future, as air defense systems grow more accurate and deadly, stealth technology can be a factor for a decisive by a country over the other.

In the future, stealth technology will not only be incorporated in fighters and bombers but also in ships, helicopters, tanks and transport planes. These are evident from the RAH-66 "Comanche" and the Sea Shadow stealth ship, Sea Shadow (IX-529) is an experimental stealth ship built by Lockheed for the United States Navy to determine how a low radar profile might be achieved and to test high stability full configurations which have been used in oceanographic ships.

Ever since the Wright brothers flew the first powered flight, the advancements in this particular field of technology have seen staggering heights.

Stealth technology is just one of the advancements that we have seen. In due course of time we can see many improvements in the field of military aviation which would one-day even make