Well, maybe not.
Those same, let's call them potential adversaries, ("enemies" is such a loaded word) seem willing enough to play the same game. The Chinese have flown not one but two stealth fighters. The Russians, in cooperation with India, are fielding the Sukhoi T-50 and it might just be better than America's F-22 Raptor and light years better than the substantially inferior F-35 Lightning we're being pressed to buy.
One Russian advantage is what [Australian analyst Dr. Carlo]Kopp calls “extreme plus agility” — a consequence of the T-50′s “advanced aerodynamic design, exceptional thrust/weight ratio performance and three dimensional thrust vectoring integrated with an advanced digital flight control system.”
The second advantage: “exceptional combat persistence, the result of an unusually large 25,000-pound internal fuel load,” Kopp writes. The T-50 could keep flying and fighting long after the F-22 and F-35 have run out of gas.
Moreover, the T-50 will dodge certain radars better than others, according to Kopp — and U.S. sensors are among the worst at detecting the T-50′s unique shape, he contends. Kopp’s breakdown of T-50 RCS by radar type shows Chinese “counter-VLO radars,” specifically designed to spot American stealth planes, detecting the T-50 best.
The next best sensors to use against the Russian fighter is the UHF radar aboard the U.S. Navy’s E-2 early-warning planes. American fighter radars, including those aboard the F-22 and F-35, are of middling effectiveness against the T-50, Kopp asserts.
Kopp says the Russian prototype still needs work, including the addition of radar absorbing materials around the engines. America's (and our) potential adversaries, however, have already pilfered a lot of America's stealth secrets hacked via the internet and gleaned from the Lockheed RQ-170 stealth drone captured by Iran roughly this time last year. That little treasure should give our potential adversaries most of what they need to know about the latest in radar absorbing materials and stealth electronics.
It's a bit mind-numbing trying to figure out whether Russian and Chinese stealth technology now means that the F-35, with its enormous flaws in payload, range, speed, climb rate, agility and reliability, is a waste of money or is somehow oddly essential. We might actually be better off trying to get the T-50, not that the Russians would want to equip a charter member of America's Aerial Foreign Legion with their latest and greatest. Oh well, oh dear.