F-35 Stealthier Than F-22?

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I figured that there would be some kind of PR offensive out of the Joint Strike Fighter program in preparation for the floating of the UK carrier and the international debut of the F-35, and here it is, in the form of a two-part piece in Breaking Defense, here and here.

The first observation to be made is that the Air Force might be able to use an Eng Lit 101 course.

Air Combat Command chief Gen. Mike Hostage, according to reporter Colin Clark, "labels as 'old think' those critics who point to the F-117 shoot-down and the presumed supremacy of high-powered electronic-magnetic warfare."

“Oldthink”, of course, is a word straight out of Orwell’s Ministry of Truth. Oldthinkers unbellyfeel FifthGenerationTM, indeed.

That aside, we should remember that Hostage ruffled a few feathers with a quote earlier this year:

If I do not keep that F-22 fleet viable, the F-35 fleet frankly will be irrelevant. The F-35 is not built as an air superiority platform. It needs the F-22.

That was not exactly a ringing endorsement of the F-35, particularly for customers who had been assured that F-35 was, no kidding, a dominant air-superiority platform (as the Australians were, in sworn testimony to Parliament). So, particularly with Canada's government ready to announce another sole-source decision to buy JSF without a competition that would provide a full view of alternative fighters, it is good news for the program if Hostage talks over his previous statement.

In the new interview, Hostage talks up the F-35’s stealth and expressly takes issue with the Boeing/Navy picture of the F-35 requiring first-day support from the EA-18G Growler or other electronic warfare assets.

“In the first moments of a conflict I’m not sending Growlers or F-16s or F-15Es anywhere close to that environment, so now I’m going to have to put my fifth gen in there and that’s where that radar cross-section and the exchange of the kill chain is so critical. You’re not going to get a Growler close up to help in the first hours and days of the conflict, so I’m going to be relying on that stealth to open the door.”

However, note that Hostage is not saying that F-35s will go in unsupported: they will use numbers for mutual support:

“I’m going to have some F-35s doing air superiority, some doing those early phases of persistent attack, opening the holes, and again, the F-35 is not compelling unless it’s there in numbers,” the general says. “Because it can’t turn and run away, it’s got to have support from other F-35s. So I’m going to need eight F-35s to go after a target that I might only need two (F-22) Raptors to go after. But the F-35s can be equally or more effective against that site than the Raptor can because of the synergistic effects of the platform.”

The words “that site” imply that Hostage is talking about destruction of enemy air defenses (DEAD) rather than air superiority alone – where the F-22’s speed and larger missile load could be expected to yield an advantage over the F-35. But a four-to-one advantage for the F-22 in DEAD, which is one of the JSF’s prime design missions, is unfavourable in terms of cost-effectiveness: according to a 2008 RAND study of continuing production of the F-22 (at 30 or fewer per year) and the most optimistic F-35 numbers from Lockheed Martin (at 150-plus per year), the F-22 at worst costs twice as much as the F-35.

Hostage makes another, very interesting comparison between the F-22 and the F-35.

The F-35′s cross section is much smaller than the F-22′s. “The F-35 doesn’t have the altitude, doesn’t have the speed [of the F-22], but it can beat the F-22 in stealth.”

Now, we all know that a lot of things can go happen between the interviewee’s brain and the interviewer’s keyboard, but the idea that the F-35 is stealthier than the F-22 contradicts pretty much everything that has been said about the program for the past 20 years, including the reporting of my former colleague, the usually well-informed Dave Fulghum.

The statement is curious for other reasons. Nobody ever suggested in the program’s formative years that the goal was to beat the F-22's stealth - and indeed that would be extremely unlikely since the JSF was designed for export. Stealth, along with other requirements, was also subject to trades in the development of the final JSF requirement, and less important than life-cycle cost.

The geometrical basics of stealth -- sweep and cant angles, minimized small-radius curves and nozzle design -- favor the F-22, and everything anyone has said about radar absorbent materials for years has been about life-cycle cost rather than performance.

Hostage is effusive about the value of the F-35’s sensor fusion and datalinks, too:

“Fusion says here’s what’s out there. You told me, this one right here’s a threat. Here’s what it’s doing right now. Here’s what your wingman (knows): he sees he’s got a missile on the right, so I’m not going to waste a missile because I already see that my wingman’s taking care of it.”

With all due respect, what is Swedish for “Hold the front page”? The datalink and tactical display system on the JAS 39A Gripen did exactly that, 15 years ago.

Finally, the second half of the Breaking Defense story talks a lot about cyber (very little of it from Hostage or any named source) and says that export buyers “went in to discussions with the Pentagon with a great deal of skepticism. But once country representatives received the most highly classified briefing — which I hear deals mostly with the plane’s cyber, electronic warfare and stealth capabilities — they all decided to buy.”

Three questions that all those export customers should answer to their voters:  In what Block will those magic cyber capabilities appear? What guarantees have been provided that F-35 cyber weapons developed by the U.S. will be shared with non-U.S. operators? And, failing that, will international partners be enabled to program their own cyber-operations tools into the F-35? 

Discuss this Blog Entry 58

on Jun 9, 2014

What I'd like to see is a comparison of late block Super Hornet with MSI I&II updates, the IRST & ATFLIR sensors, and the latest/future SCSs, and compare it with F-35. Granted they don't have the F-35s nausea inducing HMDS, but the JHMCS works, and new widescreen cockpit displays won't be too much trouble if the Navy springs for them (and accepts a modified training pipeline.)

on Jun 9, 2014

"Nausea inducing"? Are you an F-35 pilot? Thought not. There's a reason Boeing hasn't trotted out RCS numbers and compared them with the F-35. It wouldn't be pretty.

on Jun 9, 2014

Bill...Spot on!

on Jun 9, 2014

Oh look, another BS F-35 hit piece. It must be Thursday.

on Jun 9, 2014

"I figured that there would be some kind of PR offensive out of the Joint Strike Fighter program in preparation for the floating of the UK carrier and the international debut of the F-35..."

Perhaps another reason for the PR push: Reuters is reporting a LM rep saying that the next contract (LRIP8) will not see similar price reductions as the past few lots...

Hmm....

on Jun 10, 2014

Yeah, that is the most perplexing part of the whole issue. The F-35 has had a great many successes over the past couple of years and things are looking good. Yet, you hear nothing except the critics throwing mud every day! Why the JSF Program and the US Government doesn't have a good PR Campaign going is perplexing to say the least!

on Jun 9, 2014

Hey Sweetmen, stop with the crumpy pants.. It was cool for a while, but now instead of looking forward to my fav writer on my fav magazine your now this complaining Ex-wife who hasn't got anything good to say about something that obviously cant be changed and is the future of NAVAIR for the foreseeable future. And yes there is a future, but that's hard to see through all your whining.. This isn't the mag for that. Harp on the J-20.. At least then maybe you'll tell us something we don't know and have some cool pics we dont have, to wash that lame foxnews reporting out of your mouth.

Sincerely, Huge fan.. Just sayin bro..

on Jun 9, 2014

Far more succinctly than I put it later myself, you took the words right out of my mouth (except that I stopped being a "huge fan" a long time ago).

on Jun 9, 2014

I have been following this blog for at least 10 years now, if memory serves, and used to submit comments fairly regularly until I saw it taken over by Sweetman's utterly irrational diatribes against the F-35 program fueled by the major and perhaps understandable ax to grind he has with LM after being suspended due to his negative F-35 coverage. Hard to believe I defended him back then, as I now wish he would have remained permanently suspended. Worse than Sweetman are all his zealous acolytes such that this blog resembles nothing so much now as a gathering of crazed teabaggers, with Sarah Sweetman preaching to the proverbial choir and echo chamber. Meanwhile, over at F-16.net you have the other extreme, where F-35 fanboys swear that the only reason the F-35 is way delayed and over budget is because the government cut its budget or because Obama is a Muslim and a socialist and not because the JSF program was terribly mismanaged since its birth and was only rescued from potential catastrophe by Bill Gates cracking skulls years after its endemic problems should have been noticed and corrected.

Point is, tit really is a shame that there is no informed, genuinely unbiased source of information one can turn to for journalistic F-35 coverage. The "regular" press doesn't know enough about aviation or defense issues to write accurately or knowledgeably about them, forcing one to resort to the specialist press like AvWeek on the one hand and fanboys who live in their parents' basement on the other (here's looking at you, all the ELPs and sferrins of this world). So on the one hand, Sweetman and his ilk insist that the F-35 is the worst engineering catastrophe since the Ford Pinto, while the fanboys think nothing short of the Millennium Falcon could possibly defeat it.

And yet - and I can back this up with my posting history - I was among those most critical of the program in its early days when it was becoming increasingly clear that it was far more troubled than either the government of the contractor acknowledged (I was lambasted by the fanboys when AA-1 was nearly lost due to an electrical system failure and I had the temerity to suggest it was far worse than the USAF and LM let on at the time, a contention that was proven correct when Beasely let on some years later than they did, in fact, nearly lose the aircraft). By the same token, I also went on the record many years ago saying that, given enough time and money, they would eventually get the F-35 right and that it would be a very capable machine. And I was right about that, too (whereas some others like ELP and that Goon fellow and I believe BS as well were saying that the JSF program would be lucky to build 100 examples).

What I mean to point out by stating all of this is that an uninterested observer who doesn´t have a dog in the fight and has even somewhat of a clue could have predicted all of the same things I did while refraining from writing asinine hit pieces like that above or fanboy drivel such as that found at F-16.net. So, AvWeek, is it too much to ask from a journalistic periodical to put, you know, actual journalists on the F-35 beat instead of sensationalist commentators such as Sweetman who continuously spew resentful and vengeful venom toward a program that is clearly NOT the worst thing to have happened to the armed forces since Sergeant York (the M247, not the war hero)? Whatever reputation AvWeek once had as a reputable source of aviation-related news is being single-handedly destroyed by this Sweetman fellow who, a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away used to be something of a journalist before succumbing to the dark side..

on Jun 10, 2014

I don't know I agree about some of your remarks about f-16.net??? As it has a number of very knowledgeable members from Pilots to Engineers plus yes many so called Arm Chair Generals. Yet, compare to many forum with Teenagers and so called Experts. It's a pretty good source all and all. Nonetheless, I think you are right in my respects on how the F-35 has progressed. Yet, I think what is lost is how complex the F-35 is in respect to a typical fighter program. Remember, the JSF is not one but three fighter jets. Also, remember to make those big leaps in technology. You have to take big risks and big risks cost money and take time. Remember that old adage "NO PAIN NO GAIN".

on Jun 10, 2014

Here are more naysayers that don't know what they are talking about. http://www.dote.osd.mil/pub/reports/FY2013/pdf/dod/2013f35jsf.pdf

on Jun 12, 2014

I find it Interesting that you state you've been following Ares for 10 years and yet I can't remember ever seeing you comment here before.

on Jun 10, 2014

That above brought to you by the association of un-named Internet trolls (TM). Interesting how all those with all the alleged special access keep coming up wrong on F-35 capability and schedule.

on Jun 10, 2014

Bill Sweetman and the F-35 Critics are fighting a loosing battle and it's beginning to show.......Just twisting and turning every word to try to put the F-35 in a poor light. Honest, look at a simple quote from the dear general "If I do not keep that F-22 fleet viable, the F-35 fleet frankly will be irrelevant. The F-35 is not built as an air superiority platform. NOW Mr. Sweetman Reply "That was not exactly a ringing endorsement of the F-35, particularly for customers who had been assured that F-35 was, no kidding, a dominant air-superiority platform (as the Australians were, in sworn testimony to Parliament). So, particularly with Canada's government ready to announce another sole-source decision to buy JSF without a competition that would provide a full view of alternative fighters." My point is many people said the same thing in the case of the F-15 "Air Superiority" vs the F-16 and/or F/A-18. Yet, the truth is both of the latter performed the very same "Air Superiority Roles" as the Eagle and very successfully at that. Plus, in many exercises both the Viper and Hornet have bested the Eagle on many occasion in Air Combat Exercisies. So, Mr. Sweetman didn't understand the context of the statement or it's meaning. This is the whole problem with Mr. Sweetman he is bias and it shows. My biggest complain about the Media. Is not what they tell us but what they don't!. Especially, when you know they know better.......Regardless, the F-35 is doing better by the day and when it turns out to be an successful program. What little of Mr. Sweetmans credibility he has is going to be gone!

on Jun 10, 2014
on Jun 10, 2014

It's fascinating to read these well informed and authoritative critics who know so much about reporting and the defense business, but who have somehow reached adulthood without learning the basics of capitalization, the difference between "its" and "it's", "lose" and "loose", "your" and "you're", or that Bill Gates and Bob Gates are two different people.

By the way, it does matter, as this guy puts it very well. http://ow.ly/xPsNZ

I don't want to sound dismissive, but the rants above don't actually contain any verifiable facts, so there's really no way to engage with them.

on Jun 10, 2014

If you cannot attack the arguments, simply attack the grammar and capitalization instead....

on Jun 10, 2014

Sweetman's point -- I guess you missed it -- is that there are no arguments to attack, only content-less ad hominem comments.

on Jun 10, 2014

Of course you "get" his post Don, you and Bill both drink from the same water trough...

on Jun 10, 2014

There you go again, trolling away.

Here's an idea: Say something positive about whatever feature of the F-35 you think best as proven by test. After thirteen years in development there may be many possibilities, but in the interests of space just mention one.

on Jun 10, 2014

What really gets old is the same old complaining about the same garbage over and over. THAT is what people in previous posts are clearly saying and I totally agree with them. THAT is what you are perhaps too dense to grasp. Yeah, the F35 has problems that start all the way to the very beginning of requirements....we all get that. However, it would be nice if there was more analysis by Bill and others than what appears to be a continuous chain of smarmy hit-pieces meant to disparage the program.

Surely someone like Bill Sweetman can do better...

on Jun 10, 2014

I'm waiting for that most outstanding and proven F-35 feature ...tick, tock...

on Jun 10, 2014

I hope you are sitting in a comfy chair because you will be waiting a long time, as this isn't an argument for or against the F35.

on Jun 10, 2014

James Hasik takes Hostage to school on the F-117.

"So, the attrition rate was not one airplane in 78 days. It was three in 78 days. That might seem impressive, except that the result of all that bombing was the destruction of only 21 Yugoslav armored vehicles (apart, of course, from the general ransacking of Serbian and Montenegrin economic infrastructure)."
http://www.jameshasik.com/weblog/2014/06/general-hostages-logic-from-the...

on Jun 10, 2014

What is happening on milblog sites which question the over-budget, behind-schedule poor-performing F-35 program is that the Pentagon is re-energizing its sock-puppet brigade, which are basically uninformed trolls with a disruptive mission.

from the files:
In March 2011 The Guardian reported that the company Ntrepid had won a $2.76 million contract for "online persona management" (commonly known as "sockpuppetry") operations from the U.S. military. The contract is for the creation of "fake online personas to influence net conversations and spread US propaganda."

on Jun 10, 2014

Oh yes, of course this is happening. Anyone who doesn't parrot your (and Bill's) constant disparaging of the program (and all US defense acquisition efforts for that matter) is a paid sock puppet. The conspiracy is plain as day...

on Jun 10, 2014

No, not everyone who disagrees is a sock puppet, only the ones who are sponsored by the Pentagon and who present no facts and so are reduced to attacking the messenger and not the message.

on Jun 10, 2014

What arguments are there to "attack"?

on Jun 10, 2014

Perhaps that you seem to spend so much time and effort disparaging the F35 program and mocking anyone that says or posts anything differing from your viewpoint that it is starting to appear that you lack any objectivity on the subject. I think we have enough of that in the mainstream press.

Believe it or not, some of us look to publications such as this one to read objective and informed opinions on defense matters because most other sources in the media are terrible when it comes to defense coverage.

on Jun 10, 2014

Whether it's "disparagement" or "criticism" is an opinion or a judgment, not an argument, so there really is not a way to engage with you there.

on Jun 10, 2014

Engineering and materials science are constantly evolving. It's certainly possible that 20 years of progress have led to a net improvement in signature reduction for F-35 vs. F-22. Bill often quotes Ben Rich, who said stealth is 90% shaping, 10% materials. Perhaps advances in RAM have changed that equation. Perhaps the F-35 office is referring to specific aspects of the F-35 vs. F-22 rather than comparing all-aspect performance. Maybe the materials used on F-22 are more prone to degradation, and actual signature reduction after 10 years in service is not as effective as newer materials being used on the F-35. My full-time job is developing fuel cells; I check into these forums periodically as a hobby because I like to keep up with aerospace news. It'd be cool if somebody who has a full-time job following the aerospace industry would follow up on the type of questions I'm raising above and figure out what's behind program management claims instead of dismissing them out of hand based on program objectives from 1996. And the JAS-39? They're not the first to have datalinks either. The MiG-31 is a pretty good example of an earlier design. The idea isn't new, but the effectiveness could change a lot depending on the technology being used. My computer had a web browser in 1994, but I wouldn't use that fact to claim that my 486 is just as good as the Core i7 on my desktop today.

on Jun 10, 2014

We can discuss airplane or fuel cell design forever and it's not a substitute for testing the system and then evaluating the test to see if the thing actually worked.

F-35 stealth has not been tested and probably won't be, the way it looks. Classified, you know.

on Jun 10, 2014

So you work at the F35 SPO and have first hand knowledge of its RCS testing? Color me impressed.

on Jun 10, 2014

It wasn't Rich, it was Denys Overholser, and the actual quote was to the effect that the four most important aspects of stealth were shape, shape, shape and materials. I and others have thought about the points you make, in the last couple of days. Maybe the answer will emerge.

on Jun 10, 2014

Thanks - I'm interested in hearing what you come up with. After 18 years in technology development, I've got a lot of sympathy for engineers working with cutting edge technology (Stockholm syndrome, perhaps?)

on Jun 10, 2014

So a budget, built-for-export stealth plane that was originally supposed to cost $80 million a piece has somehow become more stealthy than the top-of-the-line, banned-from-export $400 million a piece F-22 Raptor?

I thought America highly guarded its stealth technology?
Are we really going to export warplanes which are stealthier than the F-22?
Is this a good idea?

I thought the F-22 was supposed to have the RCS of a marble, and the F-35 the RCS of a golfball?
Was it the other way around?

Also, is the current F-35, with its many bumps and warts, more stealthy than the original X-35, which for instance had a perfectly flat belly?

Also, if radar absorbent materials have improved so much, why are they designing new UCAV's that look just like the B-2, as flat as possible to reduce their RCS as much as possible?
Why not make them more aerodynamic like darts?

So, even with the F-35's costly weight reduction measures, software development nightmare, and trying to rein in costs as much as possible, they somehow miraculously developed a wunder-RAM that makes the F-35 more stealthy than the F-22 Raptor??

What's going on here?

on Jun 10, 2014

Even if they were stealthier than the Raptors, they will be detected by L-Band radars, then intercepted by 4 Gen Figters with LO/IR sensors and destroyed with IR long range missiles. That's why they need the Growlers to protect them from those emissions. The advanced Super Hornet is stealthy enough against X-Band radars to be close enough to launch any JSOW or JDAM. If they come with the Growlers they can even launch antiradiation missiles or Jdams. The Low Observable SH can super maneuver and defend by themselve against any agile dogfighter, like those F-16 agressors from Alaska that where wiped out with a kill ratio of 20/1 by the Australian SH in the excericise Lighting-Viper this year in Australia.

www.youtube.com/watch?v=HYGM-aB1Luc
www.youtube.com/watch?v=g-mtvZoq4N0
www.youtube.com/watch?v=UF7RQ50gwFY

on Jun 10, 2014

Any agile 4 Gen fighter with a decent jammer can fool the Amraams launched from long distance, and then get close enough to launch advanced EO/IR missiles against the F-35. The F-35 don't even carries Aim-9X internally to keep it's clean profile, so it won't be able to scape from that goupe of 4 Gen Fighters Hunting it like Sharks hunting baby seals.
www.youtube.com/watch?v=JLE-v-ldaHM
www.youtube.com/watch?v=t0C6OfKKQy0

on Jun 11, 2014

Bill, "Hold the front page" is "Stoppa pressarna" in Swedish.

Amy Butler (not verified)
on Jun 11, 2014

I think it is funny that there is news with a PR offensive for a major weapons program before an international air show. I'm pretty sure we scribes are busy covering many PR offensives at the moment in preparation for the big show. Sounds like business as usual to me. Wonder what the story would be if F-35 wasn't discussed before the show? Hmm.

Amy Butler (not verified)
on Jun 11, 2014

And, I'd like to commend Colin Clark for getting the interview. Is is the hard work of journalists asking questions and reporting the answers that helps to advise the dialogue about this important program.

on Jun 11, 2014

A note to Bill. First, thank you for the acknowledgement and the publicity for our site. Sadly, I must disabuse you of the basic premise on which your story rests -- that my stories were some sort of "PR offensive" on the part of the Air Force. (Does someone with such vast experience really believe the Air Force public affairs is really that adept?) I spent more than six months pressing the Air Force to get Gen. Hostage (or someone with similar stature and access) to speak on the record about the F-35's capabilities. The interview finally happened 25 April at Langley AFB. It took a while to do the transcript thing and even longer to piece all the bits together for the two stories and then to write them. I wish I could offer substantiation for your theory, Bill. Alas, I cannot.

on Jun 11, 2014

On the other hand granting interviews to talk about the F-35 leading up to the first deployment overseas could all be construed as part of a PR blitz to garner critical exposure for the program. :-)

Amy Butler (not verified)
on Jun 12, 2014

Hi Cocidius: I understand how that could seem to be true ... but not when these same reporters, myself included, are covering the program day-to-day. An, uptick in information going out for the show is a PR campaign -- but not any more of a PR blitz than any other program -- F/A-18, Gripen. My point was to counter Bill's dismissive assessment that the Breaking Defense story was part of a coordinated PR blitz related to the show as his opener says he "figured" it is. I "figure" it is more of a response to typical queries that get worked. The PR "blitz" is more related to the F-35B ... and its arrival. Blitz or no blitz ... there was an assumption made about the genesis of the story that is unsupported. And, I think the value of the work is that we now have Hostage on record and can pursue his thoughts to further enhance the dialogue not the program. My interest is simply in the value of journalism here ... without it how could folks have the opportunity to pick apart Hostage's or any other senior official's claims?

on Jun 13, 2014

While I'm a devoted fan of Bill I also equally appreciate the determined journalism that got us the interview. My thanks to you for being an independent voice at A&W.

BTW - I've not seen to much from you lately here and I was genuinely relieved to see you wade into this discussion.

on Jun 12, 2014

Well Mr. Sweetman, based on the level of discontent contained in the comments of the assorted and sundry F-35 supporters posting here, I believe it's no illusion that your article exposed some unpleasant realities that those same supporters would prefer remain swept under the rug.
- Keep up the good work.

on Jun 13, 2014

Thank you, my thoughts exactly!

on Jun 15, 2014

Folks - for those of you that haven't already seen our community guidelines, or need a refresh, you can read them here: http://aviationweek.com/community-guidelines

We encourage a lively dialogue among you, but we do not tolerate personal attacks on individuals. Some of the comments here were beyond borderline so I have edited or removed them. Any further personal attacks on Bill Sweetman, Amy Butler, or any member of our Ares community will result in an immediate ban. Please keep it professional.

on Jun 18, 2014

We have long heard about how the F-35's stealth is 'baked right in' (natural wholesome goodness, oh my!) but rather than being exclusively a maintainability or manufacturing dividend, I wonder if it actually improves the VLO as well.

Here's some potentially related thoughts:

1. You look at the F-22 and the F-35, what do you see? As a model builder I see a metallic chrome jet with a filter as tonal change that dulls the metallic finish underneath. It is _not_ 'Iron Ball Mk.3' or 'Have Glass Level 5' because it's not a rough finish but a very smooth one.

Why? Why would you -risk- a 'flash' sighting from a jet which occasionally is mirror-reflective when it flat plates enough area to a bright enough sunlit backdrop?

The official version is that Top Coat is likely some mix of 'Flies at Night and Top Coat is about defeating IRST by band shifting the IR into a different spectrum.' At least those were the excuses given during the shift from hand painting to an autosprayer on the F-22 effort.

2. We are told that there is something called 'Deep RAM'. Which is suggestive of the original material technology tested on the Windecker Eagle, a prototype for a nominally 'cheap' (20 million dollar R&D program) made from a 'plastic over foam' fiballoy that was used for early experiments with _dielectric_ material over material coatings of various forms behind it.
Could this 'deep RAM' be something like that? At first glance I would suggest not, because it's mentioned as being used to control 'edge diffraction' on of the airframe subject to this. Areas like the LE/TE and Hingelines of control surfaces which are shown as 'glossy'. Indicative of a different material type from the nominally also composite surrounding structure. These elements are NOT 'deep' and indeed, are installed on the jet which you would think would be subject to very little return, based on their highly swept (airfoil) angles and minimum nose on profile. In this, it is perhaps interesting that Mr. Sweetman's own _Superfighter_ book on the aircraft as well as some Janes articles mentioned a 1 billion dollar study to 'secure the VLO' and some of the things mentioned were interchangeable surfaces.

3. How does radar work? Well, we know that there is are two primary radar signature considerations: (Mie and Raleigh I believe) as an optical mode which is functionally much like a mirror and there is a resonant mode in which radar signal runs like water with Coanda type behaviors, based on impedance loading between materials.
The combination of these two behaviors dictating the scattering of energy off of targets in particular pathing angles.
We also know (from The History Channel documentary on, of all things, the Ho-229 'Nazi Stealth Fighter') that when Northrop Grumman's prototype shop builds a stealth jet, one of the last things they do prior to taking it to the range is give it a coating of paint whose principle property is that of unifying the _surface conductance voltage_ of the jet. Go to Youtube, watch the video-
(Time Index, 26:50)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MqgfjXaJxV8

What this tells me is that how the radar runs over the surface is at least as important as the actual angle at which it reflects, much like water rushing down a narrows creates rapids but the functional signature of that high speed water column is the 'white water' where it is churned to a lather by rocks in the bed of the channel.

4. We know that the F-35 is having major issues with huge amounts of money being thrown into technology updates to it's 'EW Systems' but those systems and particularly the ASQ-239 are completely passive with no jammers on the jet. Indeed, if you look at diagrams of the 239 'antenna farm' under the skin, it is apparent that they follow the outlines of the wings in particular.
Such a large scale antenna complex would normally be associated with what is called an ELS Or Emitter Location System. As with the APR-38/47 which needed a whole host of band specific antennas to establish long and short baseline signal strengths/phase rotation/doppler to essentially triangulate threat emitters. Which makes sense on a standoff ARM shooter Weasel like an F-4G, but not an interdictor whose best standoff weapon (GBU-53, 50nm from altitude) takes 10 times the 300 knot flyout as any 3,000 knot SAM coming the other way.
Something which is important when you realize the F-35 also lacks any form of internal ARM carriage option and thus if it ever -is- (blink mode or SAM-bush missile traps) snap-tracked by a high power illuminator at unexpectedly short range, it's going to eat shot after shot until it breaks that lock on.

5. We know that radius and range have what are now coyly referred to as 'routing allowances'. Which are akin to the old fighter merits system of 3 full turns at max G and afterburner at a given height (15-19K is normal) but which now seem to refer to the ability of the F-35 (as seen in various videos) to wend it's way about threat radars, threading the needle.
Something which makes ZERO sense because, even if you detect a threat in time to escape detection by it, the narrow 30` cone of LO centered on the F-35's nose is -nothing- compared to the 140` cones of the F-117 or the A/FX.
And if there are two radars in a '7-11' configuration, turning -towards- one emitter shows your higher RCS value to the other, outside that tiny protected, cruciform, cone.
Or does it? Going all the way back to the 1980s, one of the first 'real' books out on the F-117 was a datagraph mini which covered how radar works and the various effects scan patterns had on coverage (spiral, bar, etc.) in fulfilling a given search, acquisition or fire control mission. Then at the end was mention of something called an 'Omicron' radar which the Soviets were working on which defeated Stealth. There was a hint that the waveform it used was orthagonally phase cross-aligned so that it struck the target in a particular fashion, unlikely to be absorbed.
At the time I considered most of this to be garbage because even a mechanical radar scan updated so rapidly that even a minor dither in the drive motor would change overlaps in the -spatial- coverage holes of the lobes so that a jet couldn't fly through them. While fancy radars didn't make much sense either since messing with phase is messing with coherency which has all manner of disastrous effects on discriminating signal from (ambient background) noise.
Then came news of the Czech Tamara and later Vera sensors which, so we are told, are nothing but super-ESM multilateration sensors which vacuum the environment of all RF traffic from voice and datalink radio to navaids to targeting sensors, triangulating by means of multistatic site locations.
Except that doesn't make a lot of sense either since one of the key measures of Stealth is EMCON and particularly given the rates of travel in an F-22 class airframe, it would take an awful lot of continuous 'hits' to establish and hold a track on any aircraft intermittently using SAR to map target fields and reporting hits via SATCOMMs to higher HQs.
Then came PCLS and suddenly things became clearer as apparently this was what the Chinese were using or threatening to use to track Stealth aircraft via their shadow interference in such things as TV broadcast and cellphone emissions. Apparently it worked well enough for LM to even offer a civilian version: 'Silent Sentry' for commercial airspace monitoring.
The obvious problems with this is that if you are tracking null points (areas where an aircraft's passage blocks out a given signature then you have to be looking at an -exact- transmision point or known-effects diffraction zone, similar to say the Topomaps used by OTH radars to 'bounce' signals across the ionosphere. If the signal is cut off (boom, cell tower gone!) or shutdown (boom, powerplant gone!) then you have no signal. And even if this doesn't happen, there are a LOT of things that can cause eddies and shadows in signal strength as any stormy night spent on straight broadcast television will tell you. It may instead be better to look for the specific interactions of a target airframe which are NOT linear to a given transmitter/receiver angle but nonethless unique for their thumbprint signature. As differentiatable from known background issues whose nominally chaotic, pseudo-random, pattern is actually modellable.
All of which means...what?
My guesses:
A. Aircraft interact with radar in unusual ways beyond those which are normal for multipathing reflection generation. Specifically, optical and resonant modes have interactive outputs which are phase related. The manner of these interactions are modellable using finite elements theory, if you have a good understanding of the materials used in the basic airframe construction (much of the F-35 is actually aluminium, complete with fasteners, compared to the F-22 which most assuredly is not, the Chinese having stolen the F-35 database, would have an excellent idea of how it was built). Where such interactions happen they cast of microreturns like vortices of radar energy.
B. There is no reason for a non-Weasel airframe to have a massive, passive, antenna farm for locating all manner of threats when it cannot in fact see threats which do not emit regardless and has no fast hardkill system for engaging popup threats cued by longwave sensors (much further back) as the logical threat means to avoid suppression by a stealth/cruise capable U.S. force. This is because the 'antennas' need to be behind dielectric facings which would otherwise not be wise for giving the radar X-Ray look through on the inner structures of the jet. The APG-77 has an electronically fenestrated radome which prevents view of the massive AESA phased array 'hog's nose' for this very reason.
C. The way RAM traditionally nullifies radar signal is through tuned material shapes and internal chemistry which converts the _electrical charge_, as it strikes the airframe, to heat energy. Sophisticated shaping occured in jets like the B-2 and YF-23 to the extent that non-contiguous curveature (the B-2 LE is actually formed from several different degrees of conical camber) was designed to specifically NOT allow current charges to 'flow' along large areas of the airframe, presumably because the RAM has upper charge limits and it's better to scatter on a neutral bearing than to build up a rolling surface wave which peaks and returns on the main return bearing. Given the experts said the F-22 actually had better VLO than the complex shaped YF-23 as part of the acquisiiton decision (I believe this was even stated by the sole Test Pilot to fly both) and the YF-22 shaping is much less complex, this raises the question of what 'deep channel' RAM really does and how it works.
Perhaps the ultimate expression of what RAM is and how it actually functions lies in the shift from arrowhead (F-117 and A/FX) and flying wing (A-12 and B-2) to more conventional, cruciform, shapes. Since presumably if 'shape, shape, shape, materials' defined the nature of the airframe's signature reduction, and shape was about -optical- mode deflection, you would never leave the 65-75` sweep back which dictates all impingent radar lobes are scattered along a tangent arc that is a fraction of a much larger angled surface.
Except. Multistatics work on multilateration of exactly such wide angle scattering and the F-22 and F-35 are cruciform shapes.
D. 'Deep Channel' RAM is suggestive, not of materal properties or layering but EM bandwidth ones. Because a channel is how the military refers to specific frequency allocations for given modes and functions within a radar. An obvious example being the number of 'channels' assigned to missile guidance which a primary fire control will not overlap with it's own search and track emissions.
In this, it is worth noting that the most obvious material-different (RAM suggestive) properties are those which are on the thinnest possible airframe sections as a 'stealth ribbon' around the airframe peripheries. What if, those panels which truly look glossy enough to be dielectric plastics, are in fact 'deep channel RAM' _because they are active_?
What if the secret of modern stealth is that having got ride of the big-flash returns with shaping, the next step is not to breakup current flows along the skin surface but to _unify them_ so that they don't form eddy traps which show 'white water' when they collide as they flow over the resonant dipole shape of the airframe? If you could collectively run that signal over a surface RAM which less attenuated than band-tuned your incident radiation when it hit the 'deep channel RAM' which would form a natural edge break scattering mechanism with the air, you could zap the signal with an active cancellation counter load. Using phase shifters built into the skin of the jet.
This would also serve to explain the complexity of an 'EW system' which commanded no jammers and indeed had no other mission like ARM cueing to justify the need for such precise interferometry of signal paths, to and from various emitters.
Because you are measuring the signal parameters as the impinge on the airframe and then active loading them as they hit the opposed side of the jet's stealth ribbon.
If the first generation of RFLO was all passive, before it was hastily shut up and stated to have been removed due to non-function, the ZSR-62 on the B-2 was _not_. Before all reference to the system was removed, it was specifically stated to be part of an EW system. While it's followon ZSR-63 was the 'comprehensive detection/classification/geolocation' system used to manage the defensive system. Officially, the ZSR-63 is still there. Unofficially, I wonder if it doesn't drive a ZSR-62 or equivalent as an active cancellation system.
RWRs, no matter how sensitive are not EW Systems but sub components thereof, as proven by the fact that all RWRs are separate from the internal jammer receiver components which actually control the techniques generation.
But the receiver in an ALQ-131 pod is fixed relative to the airframe shape and so has limited ability to quantify signals, pulse by pulse as wavefronts hitting the nose for instance while and RWR can and does have spiral horn receivers all over the jet.
Again, since no jet is going to spatially displace quickly enough to dodge or 'route around' even an emitter as simple as a circular scan search radar, sufficient to move between lobes, it is ridiculous to assume that the LO defeating radars which we are told the Chinese and Russians are making (all photos of which show arrays too small to be long-wave) which have AESA technology able to shift the beam in microseconds, will be defeated by 'routing'.
Indeed, an AESA has the ability to use sub arrays within it's overall search lobe to 'cross' beams in a fashion that might produce unusually formed phase rotations on impacting a given target object. Sufficient to get that over-load flash or glint off passive RAM whose layered ferrites simply didn't interact with the radar beam's unusual lobe structure sufficient to detune or band (channel) shift the radar impulse in a such a way as to seem like non-coherent noise to the radar.
Conversely, an active system might be able to tune it's signal capture responses to the point where a radar lobe impinging on an active loaded surface was signal captured and modified the 'routing' of that signal being relative to perhaps the number of stealth ribbons it had to cross before rescatter after forming a surface/travelling wave on the aircraft's skin.
In this, turning a stealth aircraft with an active RFLO cancellation system _away_ from the target emitter (nominally increasing it's RCS by orders of magnitude on a cruciform airframe shape) would not necessarily be as stupid as the various thread-needle stealth videos show it to be. You could even have a relative degree of safety against 360` threats while operating deep within the IAMDS.
E. Finally, the issue with the LOCLOEXCOM authorizing export of the F-35 VLO is somewhat resolved if the nature of the system is such that it is _software driven_. No modes'n'codes = no functionality. Which also matches with the USAF statement that 'all jets have the same baseline capabilities out of the box'. Because, during peacetime, you don't want or need to advertise your capabilities by flying about invisibly within civilian controlled airspace and keeping the modes'n'codes in a hermetically sealed vault somewhere also insures against U.S. system loss. -Simulating- signature levels, during training, can then be a function of transmitting range and aspect data via datalink and letting the radar data processors decide from there whether or not the jet is trackable. Also cutting down on give away of go to war radar modes.

CONCLUSION:
I am almost sure, given the patches of grey plastic around key areas on the jet (the entire fuselage side in front of the inlets, the rear fuselage booms etc.) and the general -lack- of 'shape, shape, shape' emphasis that something has changed between Gen 1 and Gen 3 stealth. What if the reality of technology improvement is simply that increases in miniaturization have allowed the system originally intended for the B-2 to be scaled down to a much smaller fighter size?
What if the ASQ-239 is in fact running, not a jammer so much as something which generates and tunes an active loaded electric charge, inside the or just along the surface duct of the skin. And cancels it at the interface. It's not a jammer because it doesn't actively seek to interfere with the radar processor but modifies the signal parameters across a 'deep channel' of tuneable bandwidth, on the fly, before rescattering them in such a modified form that they are not recognized as some kind of phase or doppler shift against the ambient RF noise which the PCLS relies upon to detect aircraft without a direct line of sight with the emitter sources?
A baseline F-35 may well not have the equivalent RFLO capabilities of the F-22. But flip a switch, turn on the mode-codes and suddenly it is no longer a passive stealth platform at all. And that difference is what lets a nominally non-effective VLO shape appear invisible while operating deep within an ADGE which uses distant cueing radars and blink-mode intermittent illumination by fast-scan AESA to protect itself against stealth jets.
There is no protection to this strategy however if the stealth technology is able to react as fast to popup of threats as they care to snap illuminate. From any direction. You might get one good ghost of a return and then the jet's active cancellation management system will characterize the signal and, as the jet turns away onto a new bearing ('routing penalty' = gas burn), fade the airframe from the scope.

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