Thursday, January 06, 2011

Oh Yeah, About that Stealth Thing...

One of history's many wonderful lessons is that, when it comes to the military, brilliant technological breakthroughs are rapidly defeated by countermeasures and/or simply copied by potential adversaries.

An American named Maxim invents the modern machine gun.   The Germans get it.  The Brits get it.  Both sides use it to massacre each other in obscene numbers.

The Brits deploy radar.   The Germans deploy radar.   The Brits develop countermeasures.  The Germans develop counter-countermeasures.

The Americans develop nuclear weapons, long-range bombers, intercontinental ballistic missiles, nuclear missile submarines.   The Soviets follow in lockstep.

The Americans develop stealth aircraft technology.   The Russians develop radar countermeasures ("L" band radar).   The Russians develop their own stealth fighter.   The Chinese unveil their own stealth fighter.

Wait, the Chinese?  Yeah, that's right.  It's the J-20 and, like the Russian Sukhoi PAK FA, it appears to be modeled on America's F-22 Raptor.   Here's the J-20:


here's another picture:

here's Russia's Sukhoi T-50:

here's another of the Sukhoi PAK FA T-50:

And here's America's stealth fighter, the F-22 Raptor:

and one more F-22

And then there's this, a mock up of the J-35 in Canadian colours:

And the guy pushing to saddle Canada with the J-35:

So, what's the purpose of all the pretty pictures?  Well, it's to try to put the J-35 into some sort of perspective, something that's getting more challenging by the day.

Unlike the Sukhoi and China's J-20 and America's F-22, the J-35 is not a true fighter aircraft.  It's a bomb truck.  It's a supposedly stealthy bomb truck.  It can't fly like a real fighter.  It can't climb like one.  It can't out turn a real fighter.  It can't outrun them either.  Up against a real fighter it's pretty much dog meat.  But, it was supposed to be stealthy so that it could detect ordinary enemy fighters and launch long-range missiles to take them out before it could be detected and have to actually fight them one on one.  It's not designed to defeat another stealth aircraft, that was never part of the deal.  We were supposed to have this unique stealth advantage for a decade or more.

The F-35 joint strike fighter was a gamble.  It was intended to gamble away superior performance for invisibility.   But when the only adversaries against which stealth could ever be important are themselves invisible, all you're left with is sacrificed superior performance, the very qualities essential to survivability in invisible aerial warfare.

Shit, oh dear.


LeDaro said...

Let the economy go into hellhole. The stealth jets are more important. Economy will look after itself or will it.

The Mound of Sound said...

If we're going to go the stealth route, at least lets get our pilots an aircraft that can actually survive an encounter with the other guys' stealth fighters. That might mean buying top-end stealth fighters to escort our stealth bomb trucks but if that's what it takes then so be it.

Anonymous said...

You were on the right track, Mound, 'til the end: fact is, we don't need stealth at all (& good thing, cuz it'll be defeatable as soon as we get the damn thing), NOR the bomb trucks; we should just get more fast, manoueverable fighters to patrol our airspace, whatever's the best deal & most reliable come 2017 or so when we mothball the CF-18s.

The Mound of Sound said...

Hi Anon. If you read my earlier posts I agree that stealth is a transitional technology at best. The Australians have already determined that "L" band radars, fighter versions already in development in Russia, can detect current stealth technology that is relatively invisible to "X" band radars. The Russians have boasted that their SU-30 generation air superiority fighters can already defeat stealth masking.

That does make you wonder why Russia, India and China are still pursuing stealth fighters for their own forces.

Beyond the stealth issue, the F-35 is poorly suited to Canadian air defence needs. It's single-engine, limited load out and only moderate range. We need a fast interceptor with legs, something like the latest F-15 variant being developed by Boeing.