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What Good Are the F-35 and F-22 If They Can Be “Unstealthed”?

What Good Are the F-35 and F-22 If They Can Be “Unstealthed”?

Zachary Keck

Security, Asia


China is working on taking away the planes’ greatest asset.

Key Point: Stealth is one of the most important attributes an aircraft can have. 

China is trying to devise ways to make its nonstealthy aircraft radar resistant.

This week, the Hong Kong–based South China Morning Post reported that China is working on experimental technologies to make even its older aircraft appear stealthy to most radar systems. Citing scientists working on the project, the SCMP said, “The technology involves the use of a ‘metamaterial’, a fabricated layer comprising microscopic structures similar to integrated circuits. The metamaterial can alter the way radio waves bounce off its surface to create a ghost image or minimize echo on a radar, helping hide the aircraft in flight with greater efficiency.”

Apparently, the metamaterial was developed at the State Key Laboratory of Millimeter Waves in Southeast University, and is currently being tested in Shenyang, in Liaoning Province. The SCMP wasn’t able to get confirmation on which aircraft the metamaterial is being tested on, but noted that the local Shenyang Aircraft Corporation makes the J-11 and the J-15. Both of these fighter jets lack stealth capabilities.

The metamaterial is not the only kind of radar tricking technique that the team at State Key Laboratory is engaged in. The SCMP went on to report that the team earlier discussed a “ghost illusion device.” The ghost illusion device, according to the team working on it, “could make parts of the plane appear on radar as plastic, instead of metal, or show three planes instead of one.”

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