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Hype vs. Reality: Russian Radars Debunk Stealth Fighter Technology as All Show, No Substance

The term ‘stealth’ often brings to mind fictional movies like Hollow Man and Invisible Man. However, when it comes to reality, can an aircraft truly be invisible to radar?

Despite major powers like China, Russia, and the US investing billions of dollars in R&D, no country has yet produced a truly stealthy flying machine. Instead, they fall under the category of ‘Low Observables’. While designing a stealthy airframe is important, advancements in radar technology should not be overlooked. Quantum Radar, if developed, could potentially change the concept of stealth forever.

The development of radars and sensors in missiles is currently faster than the development of modern fighters. Physical and technological stealth can be divided into physical attributes and technological requirements of a stealthy machine. Physical stealth is non-existent, but physical stealth characteristics can be minimized. Technological stealth, which involves reducing the reflectivity coefficient of a flying machine, has been developed through design and the use of Radar Absorbent Material (RAM).

However, RAM paints are susceptible to damage, and ceramics are heavier than RAM paints. The existing inventory of genuine stealth-design aircraft is only with the USAF. Ground-based sensors have been developed that can detect USAF stealth aircraft, and Nebo-M Radar is believed to be capable of detecting stealthy flying machines. Missile technology has also improved with heat-sensitive missile heads. Space-based sensors like SBIRS have made progress in monitoring ballistic missile launches, but their use for aircraft tracking is yet to be seen.

While stealth design has created much hype, its efficacy under operational conditions, especially in highly dense air defense environments, is yet to be proven.

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