Stealth vs. Russia: U.S. F-22s and F-35s vs. Russia's S-300 and S-400 (Who Wins?)

Dave Majumdar
(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Preston Cherry)
(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Preston Cherry)

Dave Majumdar

Security, Europe

Any ideas?

Stealth vs. Russia: U.S. F-22s and F-35s vs. Russia's S-300 and S-400 (Who Wins?)

Physics dictate that a tactical fighter-sized stealth aircraft must be optimized to defeat higher-frequency bands such the C, X and Ku bands, which are used by fire control radars to produce a high-resolution track. Industry, Air Force and Navy officials all agree that there is a “step change” in an LO aircraft’s signature once the frequency wavelength exceeds a certain threshold and causes a resonant effect—which generally occurs at the top part of the S-band.

Russian air defenses may appear formidable as part of Moscow’s increasingly sophisticated anti-access/area denial (A2/AD) capability, but areas protected by these systems are far from impenetrable bubbles or 'Iron Domes’ as some analysts have called them.

While it is true that a layered and integrated air defense may effectively render large swaths of airspace too costly—in terms of men and materiel—to attack using conventional fourth generation warplanes such as the Boeing F/A-18E/F Super Hornet or Lockheed Martin F-16 Fighting Falcon, these systems have an Achilles’ Heel. Russian air defenses will still struggle to effectively engage fifth-generation stealth aircraft such as the Lockheed Martin F-22 Raptor or F-35 Joint Strike Fighter.

(This first appeared in August 2016.)

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