This is an F35-B

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When I’m talking about stealth I mean RCS reduction. RCS reduction technologies *are* very dependent on what radar you use, since RCS reduction is tuned to a certain wavelength range. If one designs a radar outside that range, it can see the LO aircraft as well as any other.

The F-35 will operate in a mixed fleet, but that seems to be more out of necessity than planning. As far as I know, the USAF is still committed to an all-stealth paradigm. We’re almost certainly over-buying it. We need LO for SEAD and other highly-contested environments. My point is that it’s not just advantages, there are a huge host of disadvantages.

As you said, it’s a cat-and-mouse game. So while we’ve been putting our money into LO technology and advanced fighters, Russia has been putting its money into radars. In the Cold War, we generally had better aircraft, but they had better SAMs. China is trying to develop an effective air force and an effective Navy. In the meantime, they’ve amassed an enormous missile fleet designed to deny the US access to its area. Remember their carrier-killer?

Technology development is asymmetric, leading to asymmetric warfare and strategy. It’s worthwhile for China and Russia to develop LO aircraft, especially because the US hasn’t been working so hard on counters to LO aircraft.

It’s interesting you mention missiles with LO characteristics, because it gets to why I’m mentioning this. There is a lot of talk now about how we move beyond LO technology, because a lot of people think we could get the rug pulled out from under us. One of the main theories is that speed is the new stealth- if you move fast enough, they can’t hit you. So, the USAF is putting a lot of money into hypersonics, in order to be able to defeat, e.g., China’s missile systems. If you go fast enough, you don’t have to be as hard to see. So, an LO missile can be a bit more dangerous than an LO aircraft.

I think it’s probably a lot cheaper to beef up an ECM system than to make an LO aircraft. My point is that the benefits of LO don’t extend to all areas, and the costs are prohibitive. I’m not saying we should abandon that technology, but we should give up on the idea that it’s the be-all end-all, and work on designing a proper mixed fleet. If we start with that as the assumption, we’ll get a better fleet design than if we try to buy all stealth and then just fill in the gaps with upgraded legacy systems.

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