Stealth, or the idea of reducing the enemy’s ability to detect a weapon, has existed since the first caveman sewed a pocket on his clothes and hid a rock in it.
Thousands of years later, with the ability to detect objects on land, in the air and at sea using electromagnetic radiation, hiding weapons in plain sight has become much more difficult.
The idea of making an aircraft invisible to radar waves was not pursued because the properties of the radar with respect to the shape of the object were not fully understood.
Pyotr Ufimtsev, a Russian physicist, published a series of articles on the prediction of the reflection of electromagnetic waves and radar waves.
The Soviet Union, not understanding the seriousness of its work, translated many of them into English.
But Lockheed aerospace engineers did it, and extrapolated from it a correct theory about reducing the radar cross section of the aircraft. The result was Lockheed’s F-117A, the “poaching” of Nighthawk.
Since then, stealth has been an integral part of every tactical aircraft deployed by the United States. Here are five of the deadliest weapons of war.
Famous for being the fastest plane ever built, the SR-71 is less known for being a stealth plane. The SR-71, which was sailing to Mach 3.2, was one of the first aircraft to incorporate multiple stealth features into its design.
First flown in 1962, the SR-71 incorporated four stealth features into its design. First, the surfaces were designed to avoid reflecting radar waves.
Second, the wings, tail and fuselage of the aircraft used composite materials, alternating with titanium, with the idea that composite materials absorbed radars.
Third, the huge J-58 post-combustion engines, with their large air intakes, were placed near the fuselage of the plane.
The fourth feature incorporated in the SR-71 was a black paint infused with small spheres of iron ferrite.
The painting, which gave the SR-71 its distinctive “blackbird” appearance and helped reduce the cross-section of the plane’s radar, cost $ 400 a gallon.
In total, the stealthy design of the SR-71 gave it a radar cross section of less than 10 square meters. In comparison, the radar cross section of an old F-15 Eagle is 100 square meters.
The first operational poaching, the F-117, is often mistakenly referred to as a “poaching.” Contrary to popular belief, the F-117 is actually a tactical bomber, without air-to-air capacity.
The F-117 was developed from the high-secret project Have Blue, which produced two stealth technologies to demonstrate fighters.
The Have Blue aircraft emphasized a low radar signature on aerodynamic performance, and in fact needed fly-by-wire technology developed for the F-16 to prevent the aircraft from losing control in flight.
Fifty-nine Nighthawk F-117 poachers were finally built.
The existence of the “poaching” was speculated during much of the 1980s, reaching a frenzy after the fall of an F-117 in July 1986 on the outskirts of Bakersfield, California.
The cover-up attempt only served to increase public interest, and the Air Force confirmed the existence of the hunt in 1988.
The F-117 flew for the first time in combat in 1989, when it bombed targets during the invasion of Panama.
The next F-117 flew into Operation Desert Storm, flying night missions over Baghdad, and participated in air exclusion zone operations against Iraq in the 1990s.
The F-117s flew over Kosovo in 1999, and Iraq during the Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2003. The F-117 was withdrawn in 2008.
The tailless design was designed to minimize the signature of the aircraft’s radar, allowing it to penetrate Soviet air defenses during a nuclear war.
The end of the Cold War ended the justification of a large-scale order of 132 aircraft, and only 21 were built.
The success of the F-117 Nighthawk during the 1991 Gulf War demonstrated the usefulness of poachers capable of perform a conventional precision attack, and the B-2 fleet was modified to carry out conventional missions.
The B-2 is capable of transporting from B61 nuclear gravity bombs to conventional Joint Directed Attack Ammunition (JDAM) bombs, through the massive 30,000-pound Mass Material Penetrator (MOP).
The B-2 flew over Kosovo for the first time in combat in 1999. The aircraft has also flown in support of Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom.
In 2011, three B-2s flying from the continental United States crashed into a Libyan airfield during Operation Dawn of the Odyssey.
Unlike previous American stealth fighters, including the F-117 and B-2, the F-22 was going to be a fighter, using stealth to give it a decisive advantage in air-to-air combat.
Declared operational in December 2005, the F-22 is the best fighter in the world, surpassing all current and projected fighters, and the only operational fighter of the so-called fifth generation.
The ATF would be the first aircraft to incorporate stealth into a highly maneuverable hunting platform. The F-22 is designed to provide minimum radar and infrared signatures, the two main search mechanisms for air-to-air missiles.
The radar cross-section of the F-22 is estimated by the manufacturer Lockheed Martin as, from some angles, approximated to a “steel marble”.
The United States Air Force originally planned to order 750 F-22 to replace the F-15A and F-15C, but orders were reduced to 183 aircraft.
Stealth does not only apply to airplanes, submarines have been incorporating stealth features for decades.
Among the submarines, the most powerful combination of lethality and stealth are almost certainly the Ohio-class nuclear ballistic missile submarines.
A popular legend – possibly apocryphal – about the Ohio class argues that they were never detected by rival Soviet submarines and submarine detection systems.
The Ohio submarines, with 18,450 tons submerged, are the largest submarines ever built by the United States.
Stealth features include a fish-shaped cylindrical hull for fast movement with minimal noise. The noise generating equipment is placed on stands with acoustic insulation.
The nuclear missile silos, arranged in two rows behind the sail, are flush with the hull to reduce flow noise. The subsystems also mount two steam turbines, one for quiet operation.
Eighteen Ohio-class submarines were built: fourteen serve as ballistic missile submarines, while four were rearmed with conventional Tomahawk cruise missiles.