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Publication Title | Darpas Stealth Revolution Now You See Them

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dArpA’s stEAlth rEvolution
NOW YOU SEE THEM... By Ian A. Maddock
F-117 stealth fighter aircraft of the 37th Tactical Fighter Wing stand on the flight line with canopies raised following their return from Saudi Arabia, where they took part in Op- eration Desert Storm. The first operational stealth aircraft, the F-117 captured the public imagination but was relatively primitive technology when contrasted with today’s F-22 and F-35 “stealth” fighters.
50 Years of Bridging the Gap
Low observable technology, widely known to the world as stealth, aims to reduce as much as possible the infrared, visual, acoustic, and radar signatures emitted by vehicles, whether they are sea- borne, airborne, or on the ground. DARPA has been instrumental in developing the technologies necessary to achieve these goals.
EArly Efforts
The history of signature management goes back over 100 years, beginning with camouflage designs on warships and later being applied to aircraft and eventually to submarines as well.
During World Wars I and II, attempts were made to reduce visual and even radar signatures, but it wasn’t until Lockheed’s “Skunk Works” produced the A-12/SR-71 aircraft that any success was gained in reducing an aircraft’s radar cross section (RCS). The A-12/SR-71 employed radar-absorbing coatings and RCS reduction in the structural edges of the airframe, but a decade would pass before signature management was again attempted on an aircraft.
thE stEAlth rEvolution BEgins
In 1974, the Department of Defense (DoD) hosted a Defense Science Board (DSB) study that identified the proliferation of advanced networked air defenses as a significant threat to U.S. aircraft. Wargaming a Soviet invasion across the Fulda Gap in Europe led to the conclusion that without some game-changing capabilities, U.S. and NATO forces would find victory extremely difficult.
Shortly after the DSB study, Director of Defense Research and Engineering Dr. Malcolm Currie issued a memo stating that the level of innovation coming out of DoD research was inadequate, and he invited organizations to propose radical new ideas. Robert Moore, deputy director of DARPA’s Tactical Technology Office (TTO) nominated the idea of a “high-stealth aircraft.” Based on the DSB study and with support from the Office of the Secretary of Defense, DARPA began its journey to develop the technologies for aircraft with a substantially lower RCS than had ever been de- veloped before.
152 DARPA
Sgt. Mike Baquette

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