By Alex Lockie, Business Insider:
Ever since the US used F-117s in 1991 to rock Baghdad, at the time one of the world’s most defended cities, Soviets and other potential US adversaries have been studying up on how to counter stealth jets.
Later, over Serbia, an F-117 was shot down, forever souring the image of so-called invisible aircraft that have for decades been on top of the US Air Force’s agenda.
Today, Russia and China have built impressive arrays of very high frequency, or VHF, and other integrated radars that can spot even the US’s most advanced and stealthy jets like the F-22 and the F-35 under the right circumstances.
While many have rushed to declare stealth a fruitless and expensive path for the US Air Force to walk, retired Marine Maj. Dan Flatley told Business Insider why pilots of America’s most expensive weapons system weren’t afraid of Russian or Chinese counterstealth.
“Adversaries have to build a kill chain,” said Flatley, a former F-35 pilot. Just because a radar can find an object — and Russian VHF radars can spot F-35s — doesn’t mean it can fix, track, target, and consummate that kill chain with a missile hit, he said.
“We’re not trying to prevent every aspect of that chain, just snap one of those links,” Flatley said.
So while an infrared search and tracking system could spot an F-35 and give enemy pilots an idea of where it is, it couldn’t track it or target it with a missile. This means that the systems Russia and China have spent millions developing provide only a tiny glimpse of the F-35 — systems that may be sunk costs in the grand scheme of things.
“I don’t need to stop everything all the time,” Flatley said of the kill chain. “I just need to make you unable to finish what you’ve already invested tons of time and money and effort in trying to shoot me down.”
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