Stealth Must Evolve To Meet New Threats


Air superiority will be a mainly defensive exercise as the Air Force makes plans for the next generation of fighters. While fifth-generation fighters are just getting comfortable in their roles, the crystal ballers at the Pentagon have started setting the standards for the sixth-generation aircraft that will make them obsolete. “It has to be able to penetrate the worst potential defenses we could be up against,” Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein said in a recent interview with National Defense. That means even more stealth will be required in the next fighter designs.

While the F-35 and F-22 frontline fighters can beat most conventional radars, all potential adversaries are getting better at finding stealthy targets in other ways and that means the future fighter will be cloaked against a variety of emissions. “It has got to try to be stealthier across more of the radar spectrum. It has to be stealthy in the IR spectrum. It has to be stealthy in the electromagnetic spectrum and how much it emits. It has to be stealthy in other ways,” Gen. Hawk Carlisle, the former commander of Air Combat Command and now CEO of the National Defense Industrial Association told National Defense. “When we talk about sixth-gen, it’s multispectral stealth across as many sensor capabilities as exist out there.”

Russ Niles
Russ Niles is Editor-in-Chief of AVweb. He has been a pilot for 30 years and joined AVweb 22 years ago. He and his wife Marni live in southern British Columbia where they also operate a small winery.

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  1. OR……
    We could simply build a million low-tech autonomous vehicles that would be completely obvious to any stone-age adversary – while they utterly overwhelm his own expensive, unicorn defenses. Ants versus lions. Think about it.

  2. The recent attacks on Saudi oil facilities demonstrates that the Iranians have already figured out this strategy. They used a swarm of drones and cruise missiles to cause major damage. Any current air defense system would not be able to stop this type of attack. The U.S. spent almost a half-trillion dollars on the F-35 “stealth” fighter and it could not defend against such an attack. How many defensive drones could we have built with that money?

  3. I seem to recall the same “quantity vs quality” debate during the Cold War. The Gulf War answered that question. Iraq had (stress ‘had’) the fourth-largest army in the world, and was well trained in Soviet tactics. Yet they were mopped up in a few weeks by a much smaller attacking force.

    • Most of the munitions that dropped from the air in the Gulf War were iron bombs and bullets.
      Lots, and lots, and lots of dumb gravity bombs and bullets.

      Today we have highly accurate and inexpensive aerial devices that can be mass produced.
      The “ideal” standoff weapon is very small and goes exactly where you want it to strike.
      Pretty much any country NOW can have BOTH quantity and quality.
      How do you defend against 300,000 independently targeted munitions that have a radar signature even smaller (and flying lower) than an F35? Just curious.