What exactly is “stealth technology” and why do we invest so much in it as a military? The answer is quite easy: it’s cool! Seriously though, stealth technology is a cornerstone of military aviation and provides several distinct advantages. First, let’s look at how it works.
Stealth tech gives soldiers, aircraft, or anything else, the opportunity to deflect detection in order to pass through an area without notice. In regards to aircraft, stealth deflects radar signals away from the aircraft and prevents it from returning to the sending source (think of a radio broadcast that goes out but doesn’t actually get to any listeners). Typically, a radar will emit a signal, that signal will bounce off whatever is in the area, and return to the radar. This signal will tell where the object is in relation to the sending source. Stealth technology keeps that signal from telling where the object is located.
Our military uses stealth technology on a variety of aircraft. Most notably, one might have the F-117 come to mind. This aircraft, which looks like a flying dart, was one of the first, at least publicly, used stealth aircraft. It was c It saw action in Operation Desert Storm in 1991, and Operations Enduring and Iraqi Freedom and continued in use until being retired in 2007. Another stealth aircraft, the B-2 Bomber, continues the trend of having an odd shape looking like a flying wing, but is still in use today.
Another aircraft, the SR-71 “Blackbird” has been sometimes confusingly deemed a stealth aircraft. While the aircraft did utilize technology to minimize its detection, the aircraft's main
capability lay within its high-altitude and speed classifications. It’s hard to hide the radar signature of a jet engine that is producing nearly mach-3 speeds.
The F-22 “Raptor” is one of the most recent additions to the stealth family of military aircraft. Considered to be some of the most agile and advanced aircraft, this fighter utilizes stealth technology by its ability to absorb radar signals and minimizing its heat signature as well as total size on radar detection. The end result is high maneuverability and a low chance of being detected.
The use of stealth technology in the development of future aircraft is likely to be a priority. The most current aircraft that is close to being ready for operational use is the F-35 “Lightning II” and it attempts to use stealth technology. While it is debated as to its effectiveness in stealth operations especially as compared to other aircraft, a desired attempt was made to include the technology. Whatever the next aircraft might be, we can be sure that stealth will a top priority.