Thursday, February 27, 2014
It's Funny What You Can Pick Up from Watching TV
Last evening I stumbled across a documentary on America's B-2 stealth bomber on the Smithsonian Channel. At one point there was an interview with an American engineering expert. She mentioned that at the heart of stealth technology, it's all math. Angles that will reflect radar waves back to the transmitter and give you away. Angles that will deflect radar waves in helpful directions so they don't return to the transmitter and you remain radar invisible, that sort of thing. Then she dropped what was, for me, a bombshell.
Guess where the Americans got all that genius-grade math? It turns out the science originated in Russia. The Americans managed to get their hands on a translated paper and - voila - they were away to the races. Their first, primitive attempt was the angular F-117 lifted straight off the pages of the Russian paper.
Now, of course, the Americans have learned that you can make a stealth warplane that's more rounded and yet still meets the Russian specs for angles; airplanes like the F-35.
The F-35 embodies the Russian formulae plus advancements in radar-absorbing coatings and supporting electronics. Some of those secrets have already been hacked out of contractor and defense department computers, allegedly by the Chinese. The Chinese also got their hands on samples of America's coatings and electronics when they were allowed to filch whatever they liked from the RQ-170 Lockheed stealth drone that fell into Iranian hands, virtually intact.
So just how 'secret' is America's stealth technology advantage. It's actually sounding less and less stealthy with each passing day. Yet that's the key technology that's supposed to make up for every performance deficiency in the F-35. Wowser.
While we're on the subject of this controversial warplane, The Ottawa Citizen ran a three-part opinion piece on why the F-35 is not the plane for Canada. Here are the links.
These are a good read and well worth the time. The author, Kyle Meema, has left out a couple of points but, overall, it's a solid indictment of the warplane that is the 'wrong choice for Canada.'