How Does Stealth Technology Work?

As a bit of an aviation geek, I have often thought a lot about planes.  I, like many others, wondered how they stayed in the air.  I asked my mother this question at a very young age, and she didn’t know exactly.  From that moment on, I was fascinated by planes because they were the first thing that I stumped my mother with.  One that especially fascinated me was the stealth plane.  We have all heard about stealth planes at some point in our lives, but what actually are they and how do they work?

A stealth airplane is a plane that is less visible to radar, infrared, sonar, and other detection methods.  Stealth aircraft have their roots in WWI, but these aircraft only dealt with visibility and sound.  It wasn’t until later in WWII, when radar was invented, that modern stealth aircraft started being designed.  The first plane designed with decreased radar detection was the Horten Ho 229 made by the Germans in 1943. But, that was just the beginning. Stealth technology really took off during the cold war when countries wanted to fly missions over other countries and be undetected.  Ever since then manufacturing companies have been increasing technology to avoid radar and other forms of detection.

So, how does it work? To understand how it works we must first understand how radar detection works.  “RADAR first illuminates the target, that is, transmits a radio pulse in its direction. If any of this energy is reflected by the target, some of it may be collected by a receiving antenna” (Gillman).  The signals that were reflected back are then translated to a blip on the radar screen. The bigger the blip means more of the signal was reflected back.  So stealth planes have two ways of countering the radar signal: absorption and deflection.  Absorption works by absorbing the radio waves that are sent out by the radar.  One way planes can do this is by being built out of radio absorbing material or painted with it; it converts the radio waves to heat energy, but the process of how is still classified.  Another way that a plane can absorb the radio waves is by having a microscopic pyramid like structure on the outside of the plane with radar absorbent material between the pyramids.  These pyramids make the radio waves bounce around a lot through the absorbent material and dissipate the reflection of those waves.  The other way that planes beat the radar signals is by deflection.  Deflection is when a plane has many angles on it so the radar pulses will bounce of in directions other than the way they came from.  There are no flat surfaces presented to any direction other than directly above or below them.  This allows them to fly near radars without being detected. 

So to sum it all up, stealth planes work by flying at night, being very quiet, and by either absorbing or deflecting the radar signals that are sent at them.

Works Cited

“Explained : How Stealth Technology Works.” Defencyclopedia. WordPress, 11 Jan. 2015. Web. 03 Dec. 2015.

GILMAN, LARRY. “Stealth Technology.” HighBeam Research, 01 Jan. 2004. Web. 03 Dec. 2015.

GILMAN, LARRY. “Stealth Technology.” HighBeam Research, 01 Jan. 2004. Web. 03 Dec. 2015.

“Horten Ho 229 V3.” Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum. Smithsonian, n.d. Web. 03 Dec. 2015.

“Stealth Technology.”, 17 Oct. 2006. Web. 03 Dec. 2015.

1 thought on “How Does Stealth Technology Work?

  1. Michael Thomas

    I have always been very curious about this subject but never got around to learning about it. Your blog post was very informative and I really learned a lot about the subject. My favorite plane is the A-10 Warthog, even though it’s not a stealth fighter I think it is pretty cool.

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