Pentagon: The F-35 Can Beat Russia's S-400 Air Defenses (Is It True?)

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Here's what to keep in mind: While the Russians - and the Chinese - haven't solved the problem, it's clear that stealth is becoming less and less beneficial over time, although an acquisition may not be less expensive. Eventually Moscow will find a solution to the stealth problem as the cyclical struggle between attack and defense continues indefinitely - it is only a matter of time.
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Russian air defense may seem formidable as part of Moscow's increasingly sophisticated ability to prevent access / denial (A2 / AD), but areas protected by these systems are far from impenetrable bubbles or "iron domes", like some Analysts called them.
Layered and integrated air defense can effectively make large airspace areas too expensive - in terms of men and material - to attack with conventional fourth-generation fighter jets like the Boeing F / A-18E / F Super Hornet or Lockheed Martin F-16 Fighting Falcon , these systems have an Achilles heel. Russian air defense will still have difficulty effectively deploying fifth-generation stealth aircraft such as the Lockheed Martin F-22 Raptor or the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter.
"Regarding the creation of viable air defense against opponents with fifth generation aircraft, it is fairly clear how Russia is trying to address the camouflage problem," said Mike Kofman, a scientist specializing in Russian military affairs at CNA Corporation, during an interview with The National Interest. “Russia's advanced radar, a variety of capable missiles, and systems attempting to integrate large amounts of data for stronger air defense will increasingly divide Western Air Forces into two banks. In a future where these systems have spread to China, Iran, and other regional powers, those who can penetrate and survive advanced air defenses in a high-end battle and those whose job it is, ISIL, will be or bomb his successor. "
Kofman notes that advanced Russian-made air defenses, such as the S-300, S-400, and the upcoming S-500 family, are equipped with systems that detect the presence of low-observation aircraft (LO) such as the F-22 and the F-22 can be recognized and tracked 35. This is just a function of physics, as I have already noted. The problem for Moscow is that Russian early warning and acquisition radars operating in the VHF, UHF, L and S bands can detect and even track a fighter-sized tactical stealth aircraft, but these systems do not provide a weapon quality trace . "Russia has invested in low-band early warning radars with some great variations, but can it use them to compile a good picture and develop a trace against low-observation planes?" Kofman asked rhetorically.
Physics dictates that a fighter-sized tactical stealth aircraft must be optimized to defeat higher frequency bands such as the C, X and Ku bands used by fire control radars to produce a high resolution trace. Industry, air force, and marine representatives all agree that the signature of an LO aircraft is “gradually changed” as soon as the frequency wavelength exceeds a certain threshold and causes a resonance effect that generally occurs in the upper part of the S-band .
Typically, this resonance effect occurs when a feature in an aircraft - such as a tail fin - is less than eight times the size of a particular frequency wavelength. In fact, small stealth aircraft that do not have the allowable size or weight for two feet or more of radar absorbing material coatings on any surface are forced to do business about which frequency bands they are optimized for. This means that secret tactical fighters appear on radar devices that operate in lower frequency bands - for example in parts of the S or L band or even in lower frequencies. Larger stealth planes like the Northrop Grumman B-2 Spirit or the upcoming B-21 don't have many airframe features that cause a resonance effect - and are therefore much more effective than low-frequency radars.
For the Russians, solving the problem of aiming at a low-observable aircraft is something they continue to work on - but it is doubtful that Moscow solved the problem. Russia's heavy investments in air defense layers show that the Kremlin believes that the main threat to its ground forces comes from the U.S. Air Force. Combating stealth technology is therefore one of Moscow's top priorities, according to Kofman, and the Kremlin has made many resources available for this purpose.
Russia has tried various techniques to defeat stealth technology. This includes trying to build a tightly integrated air defense network with multiple radars trying to look at the same aircraft from different directions - but how effective these efforts have been is an open question. "It's great to see an airplane or parts of it, but getting the accuracy to safely bring a missile close to the target is the biggest challenge," said Kofman.
While the Russians - and the Chinese - have not yet solved the problem, it is clear that stealth is becoming less and less beneficial over time, although an acquisition may not be less expensive. Eventually Moscow will find a solution to the stealth problem as the cyclical struggle between attack and defense continues indefinitely - it is only a matter of time.
(This was first published in summer 2016 and will be republished due to the interest of the readers.)
Image: Flickr.
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