The Science of Stealth

The most classified technology in a stealthy airplane is its skin

(USAF / John Rossino)

All-Aspect Stealth

(USAF / Senior Airman Garrett Hothen)

Today’s champ in “all-aspect” stealth throughout its range of missions and the flight profiles it presents to an enemy is the F-22 Raptor. Its RAM reduces its radar signature, but its small return is mainly due to an airframe design that eliminates right angles in favor of curved shapes of varying radii.

The radar cross section of the F-22 has been compared to that of a bumblebee, about one square centimeter. The B-1B Lancer has an RCS of roughly one square meter, and the wholly un-stealthy B-52 Stratofortress has one as large as 100 square meters.

A radar cross section, or RCS, is a measure of reflectivity, expressed in square meters, often generalized from the return from the head-on and level radar illumination of the airplane’s nose. A complex mathematical formula converts that return to an estimate of the size of a sphere that would return the same measure of energy.


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