Adversaries creeping up on stealth aircraft

By 2022, about one-fourth of U.S. Air Force combat aircraft will feature stealth technology. And as older platforms retire, and newer ones such as the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter and the B-21 Bomber replace them, that percentage will only grow.

By 2022, about one-fourth of U.S. Air Force combat aircraft will feature stealth technology. And as older platforms retire, and newer ones such as the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter and the B-21 Bomber replace them, that percentage will only grow. That fact has not been lost on potential rivals, who have watched the Air Force use the game-changing technology with great effect since its success over the skies of Baghdad during the first Gulf War in 1991. But what about the long term? Will there be an equally game-changing defensive technology that renders this advantage obsolete? That's one of the questions retired Air Force officers Maj. Gen. Mark Barrett and Col. Mace Carpenter sought to answer in a report, "Survivability in the Digital Age: The Imperative for Stealth," produced by the Mitchell Institute for Aerospace Studies. "Over the long run, the U.S. will engage opponents who field increasing numbers of powerful digital multi-band radars," the authors wrote. That is particularly troubling when ground-based systems alert surface-to-air missile (SAM) batteries about approaching aircraft. The authors highlight several other methods adversaries can pursue that could help them detect stealthy aircraft.

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