Has Radar Stealth Been Fatally Compromised?
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Has radar stealth been fatally compromised? On page 52 of the July 27 print edition of Aviation Week & Space Technology, you show an F-35A with six external pylons and two laser-guided bombs. A following page shows two F-35As each carrying an AIM-9 on the left wing. We have been told that the next conflict could be with a “near-peer” nation with real air combat capability. So why then is the F-35 being flown as if its next opponent will have the air-to-air capabilities of the former Islamic State group?
Defense Editor Steve Trimble responds:
When minimizing radar cross-section (RCS) is not required for a mission, the F-35 can carry weapons externally. Not every mission requires minimizing the RCS profile. It is true that the F-35 would be unable to use AIM-9s in stealth mode, but it can carry four (and after 2023, six) Amraams internally on such missions.
Yes, AIM-120s are medium-range missiles. But, as the F/A-18E shoot-down of a Syrian Su-22 in 2018 showed, they are also capable of short-range intercepts—if necessary. The F-35 also has demonstrated the ability to employ laser-guided bombs from inside the weapons bay, so that is not an issue in stealth mode.
F-35 pilots have to train to be proficient in all potential air combat scenarios, which include operations against lightly defended or undefended targets.