F-35 Stealth Questions Bring Back B-2 Memories

Over the PacificBoeing’s recent strategy to question the effectiveness of the F-35’s stealth capabilities against the latest air defense radars brings to mind similar questions that were raised about another expensive next generation stealth aircraft about 13 years ago.

In 1991, Pentagon tests found that Northrop Grumman’s B-2 Spirit was less capable of evading radars with its stealth bat wing design than initially expected. These problems along with cost overruns cut the B-2 program by more than 70 percent.

The Air Force had planned to field 75 of the B-2 bombers, but Congress ended the program at 21 aircraft as costs skyrocketed. If you include all procurement costs, the B-2 cost $929 million per aircraft. It almost makes the F-35 sound like a steal with its procurement costs at $162 million per aircraft.

However, the current debate deals with the F-35 and doubling down on more EA-18 Growlers to increase the Navy’s electronic attack capabilities. Boeing has pushed the Navy to buy more Growlers. The Navy has requested 22 Growlers in its unfunded priorities lists with the possibility of buying up to 50 more.

Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Jonathan Greenert said its a  top Navy priority to increase the number of Growlers aboard each carrier from five to seven. The logic had been that with F-35Cs, the Navy’s need for electronic attack aircraft would diminish, not increase. But that’s assuming the Navy stays on board with the  Joint Strike Fighter Program.

Plenty of questions were asked about the Navy’s commitment to the program when the service  cut its F-35C five-year acquisition plan from 69 to 36 aircraft. More questions were asked when Greenert added the Growlers to the unfunded priority list.

Greenert has repeatedly said the Navy is committed to the F-35 program, but he did hedge in regards to the value of stealth in his recent Congressional testimony.

“[Stealth] is needed for what we have in the future for at least 10 years out there and there is nothing magic about that decade,” Greenert told Congress. “But I think we need to look beyond that. So to me, I think it’s a combination of having aircraft that have stealth but also aircraft that can suppress other forms of radio frequency electromagnetic emissions so that we can get in.”

That comment sounds an awful lot like a few of the lines offered in the presentation given by Mike Gibbons, Boeing’s vice president for Super Hornet and Growler programs, at the Navy’s annual conference earlier this month.

“The density of the threat is getting more complex and more difficult. The electromagnetic spectrum is getting more complex and more difficult and requires more of what the Growler provides in electronic attack and electronic awareness. Only the Growler has this capability,” Gibbons said in an interview with Military.com.

About the Author

Michael Hoffman
Michael Hoffman is the executive editor at Tandem NSI and a contributor to Military.com. He can be reached at mhoffman@tandemnsi.com.
  • Bernard

    The B-2 is a heavy stealth bomber with a 7,000 mile range. We expected it to be expensive. The F-35 is an F-16/F-18 replacement. It is supposed to be cheap because the whole point of the program was the save money by reusing the airframe across three branches and in multiple countries. Unfortunately the F-35 isn’t saving anyone any money, and it cannot even fulfill the most basic of mission requirements.

  • Big-Dean

    Well, if the F-117 could be shot down by a bunch of ragtags Serbs way way back in 1999 then one ask to ask the obvious. Is stealth overrated? Yes it is.

    It time to move away from the thinking that stealth is everything. When you put all of your chips on a single bet then most of the time you will lose because the “house” always controls the odds

    • Bernard

      There was no radar lock, it was a blind shot that just managed to hit. Quit spreading FUD.

      • Musson

        The magic BB.

        • java vm

          magic BB == magic Bernard Bullshoot ?

      • java vm

        A blind shot? Quit spreading BS, Bernard!!!!

      • DBM

        Soviet doctrine was to just fire every round of ammo into the sky. The serbs got really lucky

    • Derf

      It was an infrared missile, set up to fire directly at the F-117’s rear, because the idiots in charge had the planes flying the EXACT SAME ROUTE every day. So, a non-idiot Serb put a whole bunch of missiles exactly on the flight path, and then got lucky when one of them managed to hit.

      Nothing to do with stealth tech – just idiots. Even magic couldn’t help against star-grade stupidity.

      • RWB123

        The plane was shot down by an SA-3 which is a radar guided CLOS missile. There were two missiles fired and the pilot of the F-117 saw both of them coming. One was a close miss and the other one nailed him.

        You don’t have to believe me – research it yourself.

        • William_C1

          Based on how SA-2s were sometimes used in Vietnam (fired blind during many missions when heavy SEAD support was around) the SA-3 can almost certainly be fired in a more “manual” method by trying to predict an interception point by whatever information you have. That was likely what happened as opposed to this notion it was command-guided by radar all the way to the target. Unless the F-117 had its bomb bay open the entire time that would be virtually impossible.

    • Guest

      During a Red Flag exercise, a RAAF F-18 made contact with a Raptor. The pilot could see the F-22. His weapons systems could not. Really pissed him off.

      It’s one thing to detect a stealth aircraft. It’s something else altogether to lock a weapon on one.

    • jac

      Wasn’t so much the Serbs’ genius as it was poor mission planning by the F-117 crews and or higher ups. They flew the same ingress route every night. Sure hope the dude responsible for that was forced to retire.

    • muttling

      In addition to the other replies (which are almost all quite accurate), the Russians were very interested in finding ways to defeat stealth and are suspected to have given technical help to Colonel Dani (the commander of the unit that took the plane down.)

      The Russians had figured out something we were well aware of and tried to keep secret, stealth technology isn’t as effective against low frequency (e.g. long wave length) radars and the older radars which Col. Dani’s unit deployed was all low frequency equipment.

      From the very beginning, we new stealth wouldn’t last forever. We knew it would be penetrated and that’s it is frequently called “low observability today.” It’s hard to see and even more difficult to lock onto a “stealth” aircraft, but not impossible. What’s more, you may or may not be able to us when you turn on your radar but rest assured that we WILL see you and there might be an AGM-88 HARM coming back at you.

    • IronV

      This little debate ignores the fact that all key Serb targets were reduced to grease smudges.

    • saber2

      its almost as stupid as saying armor tech is overrated coz it cant protected you from bullets all the time. Stealth isnt about 100% invulnerability. Nobody ever said so. Dumb people keep citing one loss at Balkan, while overlook the fact that F-117A was used for like 20 years, for the most dangerous missions ever, and with ONLY ONE loss.

    • Atomic Walrus

      Stealth is like camouflage. It’s not going to prevent detection all of the time, but it’s going to make detection a lot harder in general. The utility of painted camouflage on aircraft declined dramatically after the advent of radar and infrared sensors, but it’s still applied on almost everything. You’re going to see stealth technologies (or at least radar signal reduction) applied to just about every new tactical aircraft for the same reason that nobody leaves their fighters in polished metal finishes anymore.

    • Alva Maynor

      And during the gulf wars, they sent in the F-4 wild weasel ahead of the F-117 aircraft. Having started my career on the Aegis Weapon System ships, I would put a good radar detection warning system ahead of any stealth technology.

  • BlackOwl18E

    The Navy has been way ahead of the competition when it comes to thinking forward. Our enemies know we are enamored by stealth and they’ve already developed a lot of systems that can see it in theory. However, countering effective electronic jamming will be more difficult than countering stealth as technology develops. The Super Hornet and Growler combination can handle anything our enemies could muster up for a long time and remain more effective over a longer period of time than the F-35 ever will.

    The CNO knows this too.

  • blight_

    It’s probably a good time to think about a replacement to the F/A-18 Super Hornet in terms of two-engined heavy designs. If Northrop still has any Grumman guys…

    There’s a good chance that such a competition will lead to another joint competition as they chase a replacement to the F-22 (which is frozen at ~187 units).

    • BlackOwl18E

      F/A-XX is the Navy’s replacement for the Super Hornet. Work is expected to start in 2015, assuming the funds are available. It’s going to essentially be a modern F-14 with an unmanned version to accompany it.

      • William_C1

        I thought you were just insisting the Super Hornet would be enough?

        I would be very pleased to see the F/A-XX in service by the 2025 date currently hoped for. Yet given the record of aircraft programs in recent years I have my doubts. Doubts that are furthered by the sort of budgetary climate we seem to be in thanks to our politicians.

        As far as I know they haven’t yet decided if they are going to give the F/A-XX an “optionally manned” capability or develop a specific unmanned variant of it. That decision may be determined by UCLASS.

      • muttling

        It’s not so much a replacement for the F/A-18, that’s the F-35’s expectation. More of one aircraft to serve both the roles of the F-14 and the EA-18 Growler or A-6 Intruder.

        Problem is, the aircraft isn’t expected to be deployed until 2030.

        • ChuckL

          Why are these designers, or proucurers so enamored with one plane for multiple applications. I always costs more than two sparate designs with each optomized for its primary purpose.

      • guest

        The X47B rwreworked will accompany F8 and the Growler on missions.

  • hibeam

    This is how big government works. Get used to it. Why we would want big government to do anything beyond defense and a very few other things is beyond me. 900 million dollar non-working web site anyone? Built in Canada so no Americans got hired in these hard times. Sounds right as rain to me.

    • JoeO

      Private industry can match the Govt screw-up for screw-up, if not beat the Govt hands-down for screw-ups. It’s not public vs private, it’s size & mission & ethics.

  • Paul H

    Does any military project, contract or equipment ever cost and work as intens, it seems that it either cost more than thought or does not work as intended or both.

  • conradswims

    If I can see it with my eyes and hear it with my ears it ain’t stealth nothing!

  • Lockheed has done a good job convincing the services to accept the reduced capabilities of their Jedi Starfighter. USSR could not compete with the US military expenditures, the US is in the same position as the old USSR with the F35.

  • Houston

    The main drawback with the F-35 is trying to do everything in one airplane. Having one plane that does it all has never worked before, and it won’t work this time.

    $100 million dollar flying turd.

  • oblatt22

    The irony of the F-35 is that its design sacrifice maximum stealth for better performance. The better performance never arrived but they still have the degraded stealth.

    • William_C1

      Stealth was never sacrificed, the level of stealth the F-35 is what was envisioned for the JSF from early on in the program. It wasn’t intended to quite match the F-22 but it would be a lot easier to maintain.

      • Yellow Devil

        Would be a lot easier to maintain? Until they get the F35 actually finished and disseminated among the Armed Forces, there is no guarantee if it is “easier to maintain” than the F22. Yeah I know, “ifs and butts were candy and nuts than…”

  • Tad

    Not being the stealthiest guy in the sky isn’t the end of the world, as long as you understand the conditions and limitations of your stealth. The worst tradeoff that has been made for the F-35, IMO, is cost. If it were cheaper then we could buy lots and lots of them, numbers having a quality all their own and all that.

  • William_C1

    By nature of its size and tailless configuration the B-2 is harder to detect with any of the VHF radars people are concerned about. So what were its supposed failings? Did they expect to fly within a dozen kilometers of a state-of-the-art radar set without being detected? The goal for the B-2 was for a level of stealth that would greatly reduce the radar coverage area of the enemy’s air defense systems so it could slip past them. It seems to have achieved that.

  • Michael_AF_Ret

    If you look behind the “green curtain” you will find the Navy doing what it does best during procurement – stalling. It’s classic. 1970’s two fighters were built to compete against one another. The one that won would be the fighter the Navy and Air Force would purchase. Enter the YF-16 and the YF-17(Identical to the first generation F-18). The YF-16 won the fly off in all categories. Time to commit – the Navy doesn’t want the winner; they want the loser because they “need” two engines on their aircraft. Navy had helped the YF-17 contractor to improve the flight characteristics. The Navy thought the FY-17 would win the contest. Instead, it fell flat. It was out climbed, turned, and was far less effective for the mission tests. The YF-17, soon to be the F-18 was heavier which makes catapulting off the deck of a carrier more difficult. Every NATO country purchased the F-16. The Navy gave the YF-17 a different designation of YF-18.
    The new F-18s developed cracks in their vertical stabilizers grounding every F-18 in service including the Canadian Forces squadrons. The CAF eventually purchased F-16s. The Navy purchased single engine Harriers for the Marines.
    If the Navy would just say out front what they need; that, alone, would save 100s of millions of dollars. I think that they are stuck with an antiquated mind set. The F-4 and the F-14 were the only two engine aircraft the Navy actually said they needed two engines. They continued to fly single engine A-4s and A-6s until the F-18 came on line. But, they were building super carriers; and, the F-4s needed the super carriers to be forward deployed safely. And, they up-sized to the Super Hornet – an F-18 on steroids. Another heavy weight. So, the Navy”s solution to procurement is tell Congress what they will save by just upgrading the F-18 with a lot of help from the contractor. So, if you figure that the Navy spent money that should have gone to Gen 5 aircraft, all approved by Congress and the Joint Chiefs, it puts a new light on the Pentagon’s procurement policies. Too many fingers in the pie. I hope in the future the Admirals will think ahead and fully spec out the aircraft they actually need. And, as for the future of the F-35. If you believe the F-35’s radar cross section is inadequate, take a closer look at what the Admirals went out and spent our money on – a 40 year old design and made it bigger. How big is the radar cross section of the YF-17, excuse me, F-18 Super Hornet? It is only a matter of time before the Navy procurement plan includes the F-36, a twin engine version of the F-35 only bigger and heavier. And, for those speaking out against the F-117, first gen stealth, it was Air Force pilots flying those missions on a regular schedule. It was more a matter of taking the same route to target than the stealth abilities of the aircraft. Final word. Everything cost more today than it did 35 years ago. Put everything in perspective. What is needed may require more money than estimated ten years ago. But, that doesn’t change the need.

    • Trons Away

      Perhaps a little bias in your comments…

      Why does the Air Force constantly find the need to tell the Navy what aircraft it needs to buy for its carrier force? If you don’t want two engines because the engineers’ mathematical modeling claims an extremely low mean failure rate, go ahead, believe the engineers. Being an aviator and former maintenance officer, I know that engines are maintained by humans and operated in less than optimal saltwater environments. I can personally attest to several occasions when that second engine has kept me from ejecting.
      Further, anyone that has been involved in the testing of F-35 has quickly realized that it uses an Air Force maintenance paradigm. It requires a pristine hangar environment, and is down if it’s breathed on wrong. Those characteristics are not conducive to carrier operations.
      A-6 had two engines, I believe you meant A-4 and A-7s. Neither aircraft weighed 30k pounds empty, nor cost $130 mil per copy. An extra motor might be a good insurance policy.

      • Michael_AF_Ret

        I’m looking for a little reciprocity. The Navy developed the F-4. The Air Force found that the Phantom was a good aircraft. Thus they bought more of them than the Navy; but, only because the Air Force missions required more aircraft. I did mean the Corsair IIs. And, I understand the safety factor of a second engine. But the YF-17 lost to the YF-16 in what was suppose to be a winner take all fly off. But, the fact is the Navy would have gone only with the YF-17 if it had won. The Air Force would have gone with the YF-17, too. The Air Force, despite its experience with the F-4, went with the single-engined YF-16. If you take a look at mission requirements, the AF needs a nimble, high thrust to weight ratio aircraft. The Navy will sacrifice some of those requirements for additional ruggedness and corrosion-resistant materials. So instead of waiting until a “crisis” moment in developing new aircraft. The Navy should just say that future aircraft have to have two engines to operate from a carrier. I’m sure the Air Force can make their version lighter and cheaper. And, in the end the cost per aircraft should be less expensive on average. As far as pristine conditions, the Navy like the AF park their aircraft on the flight line. Exposed to the elements. Many AF bases, like Langley, are exposed to sal****er. But, I will concede that operating at sea you are dealing with salt air constantly. I’m AF; but, my son is Navy. He has worked on the avionics, fire control, targeting, and other “black boxes” on the F-18 and the Super Hornet. He has had five deployments to the Gulf. He has also been stationed at Fallon NAS and Lemoore NAS. And, he loves both aircraft. My military background is with ICBMs, SLBMs, cruise missiles(air, land, and sea launched), Laser and GPS guided weapons. I’ve, also, worked on several other special weapons platforms. Of course this involved working with all branches of the Armed Forces and many allied Nations. The testing and mission validation programs for each weapon system put me right in the middle of the procurement process. Even after the system was deployed, we continued testing, validating, and tweaking. Testing involved all environments with sal****er and alkaline deserts topping the list for maintenance. One last comment. My favorite aircraft to date are the F-4, F-15, F-14, and E-6 in that order with the F-16 and F-18 Super Hornet.

    • tiger

      Minor nitpicks. You missed the whole A-12 affair in the history mix. T a he YF16 was never built to Navy specs. The Navy had a (VFAX) program in the works & Congress Merged the USAF Lightweight Fighter program with it. LTV & General Dynamics were to design changes To fit the USN needs. There is little sign it happened.

    • Chuck

      The A-6 was also a two engine aircraft.

      • Michael_AF_Ret

        My bad. The Intruder was a great attack aircraft with gutsy pilots.

    • JohnnyRanger

      “The CAF eventually purchased F-16s”. Never.

      • Michael_AF_Ret

        I can tell you this. In the hanger at CAFB Cold Lake, I saw three F-16s in Canadian colors. Along with two F-18s with Canadian colors, both grounded until the vertical stabilizers were repaired. So, what I saw was three mission ready F-16s and two grounded F-18s. I witnessed two F-16s take off. I did not see an F-18 landing or taking off. The aircraft were assigned a intercept/chase mission for a weapons test. This was in mid January and there were no aircraft on the flight line.

        • Dfens

          Just being Devil’s advocate here, but at least the Navy had the good sense to design out the problem with the cracking verticals of the F-18E/F. The Air Force allowed Lockheed to lay out both the F-22 and the F-35 with the cracking verticals problem inherent to their design. It was only by using some fly-by-wire tricks that they are able to keep the verticals on both those airplanes. It would be one thing if they had only been fooled once, but twice?

          • Michael_AF_Ret

            Appreciate your input. I’ll start by saying the B-2 doesn’t have vertical stabilizers; and, it flies because of computers, sensors, and software. The F-117, also, would be impossible to fly without computers, sensors, and software. Both are first gen stealth. To be stealthy you have to be able to redirect, or absorb, radar energy. Angling the vertical stabilizes is a necessary design requirement. Until you put in to test flight, you only have the calculations and “controlled” jig testing. Again, computers, sensors and software allow for the stealth design requirements. The Navy’s new drone has no vertical surfaces thanks to computers, sensors, and software. Many great fighters were designed to tip toe the boundary between stable and unstable flight in order to increase maneuverability. The F-18’s vertical stabilizer cracks were a manufacturing defect. Once it was corrected the F-18 began flying and undergoing Block improvements. Eventually resulting in the Super Hornet. The F-22 and F-35 air frames will have growing pains just like every other aircraft. Putting a pilot in the seat is the only way to test how good, or bad, the aircraft will be. We all have to remember we want to “own” the sky to protect our ground forces and naval forces.

        • Would you please add some content and context to this, please? When was this?

    • ChuckL

      Gentlemen, I believe that the procurement arms of the militry are hampered more by the congressmen and senators trying to get the contract for their district, than the military requirements. These politicians also have much to do with the multiple redesigns which cost so much money.

      If the design was completed before RFPs wer snt out and thse RFPs were for the completed design the costs would drop greatly.

      • Dfens

        The man speaks the truth! Pay the contractors extra to screw you and then wonder why they do. That’s just stupid!

      • Michael_AF_Ret

        Amen on the Congressmen and Senators. There is always an on going discussion about future weapon systems and their platforms. Needless to say aircraft has no limit on “experts” and “future analysts”. They are now discussing “near-Earth orbit” craft – manned & unmanned. DoD procurement builds RFPs by committee. And, there are a lot of “what if” inputs. And, when Congress gets wind of some new idea, there is a scramble to get their share of the pie. Chuck, it sounds like you and I have been there – done that.

    • The YF-16 versus YF-17 Lightweight Fighter program to replace the F-104 was a success within NATO but not an overwhelming success. Germany, Britain, and France weren’t interested. Neither were the Japanese. But including the USAF and NATO purchasers about a thousand F-16 A&B models were in the initial orders. So the scale of production kept original cost per unit remarkable low.

      A Carrier based aircraft needs to be designed for that task. The Y-16 never was sturdy enough. McDonnell Douglas partnered with Northop to recreate the YF-17 into the F/A-18. NATO countries Canada and Spain preferred the Hornet over the F-16. And no, the Canadians never used F-16….

      • Michael_AF_Ret

        This was in 1985. Canadian Forces Base Cold Lake. I had an Air Force crew at Cold Lake for a series of tests. The tests had nothing to do with my observations in the hanger. I was told the F-16s were being used for flight chase. Cold Lake is the Edwards AFB of the CAF. And, they were painted in the Canadian colors.. One of the F-16s was a two-seater.

    • The A6A Intruder was a two place twin engine, not a single engine, center line thrust( engines on the port and starboard sides) attack aircraft capable of carrying some heavy payloads it had two J52 8500 lb thust P&W engines made by Grumman Iron Works. the A4 was a light attack single engine aircraft powered by a single engine 8500 lb thrust J52 P&W engine a dream to fly and hold a line on a bomb run a challange to fly on instruments.

      • Michael_AF_Ret

        Sorry you missed my correction about the A-6. I’ve always considered A-6 crews to be some of the gutzist pilots in the world. Their missions over Vietnam are legendary. Thanks for the Specs. The fact that Top Gun used A-4s in the adversary squadron speaks volumes about aircraft’s capabilities. I’m still a big fan of the F-4. I worked closely with the F-4 pilots and their test F-4s on a regular basis. Testing new munitions, weapons pods, and flight delivery parameters. It was a lot of work; but, it was a lot of fun, too. Seeing an F-4 in test colors is awesome.

  • mrlee

    If you have a good radar operator on duty, they can find them. You see, once you know that they are in the air, it is not always looking for the aircraft, but looking for what is not correct on your screen.

    • Michael_AF_Ret

      Correct. And, you develop that ability because you are exposed to it continually. Ergo, flying inbound on the same route more often than you should. My AF team worked with the cruise missile programs. The radar’s along the test flight routes would see weird images on their screens for a brief second before they disappeared. Test data correlation showed the missile was momentarily exposed to the radar due to topographical features or altitude changes. Over a three year span in tests in several countries, the cruise missiles were always programmed to fly a different mission profile to target. They were the most visible in the Western Test Ranges in California, Nevada, and Utah. Part of the test profile was to intercept the cruise missile with an aircraft directed towards the missile. That proved to be successful about 10% of the time. And, had more to do with the pilot than the radar system operator. That would be consistent with the F-117 incident.

      • citanon

        Great posts from you sir. I learned something by reading them today.

        However, as much as I’d like to learn more from your first hand experience, I wonder if we are not getting into areas pertinent to OPSEC.

        • Michael_AF_Ret

          Good question. I have read the same dialogue in Jane’s back in the late 80s. As far as the routing to target, it is procedural to select ingress and egress routes based on as many random directions as practical. In some situations that can be very limiting. The ranges are on any map of those areas. That is a lot of territory and a big sky over it all. I had a very interesting career; but, only those working with me and myself will ever know anything about it.

  • Vitor

    I wonder if the most updated version of the russian S-300 and the S-400 could detect the F-35 at useful ranges. For sure I wouldnt trust the F-35 against the S-500 when it is finally deployed.

    • Jim

      I’m sure it could. Nobody has gone on the record about B-2 ops. The insane persistence of USAF flying these back and forth from Kansas City to wherever the go to stealthily strike the target in say, Afghanistan. is a ridiculous waste of time and dollars. I have read from open sources that as the B-2 closes to target, it meets its “escort” of Growlers and, Prowlers,. If it’s “invisible”. why does it need jammers leading the way? Overtaxed and under equipped, the Navy/ Marines had this mission dumped in their laps once all the EF-111 Ravens went to the boneyard,

      • citanon

        Because the depots are in Kansas.

      • JohnnyRanger

        Read where? Provide links, please.

      • blight_

        Interesting. Not sure if true for B-2, but apparently true for F-117.

        Flip to page 3.


        “We had flown hundreds of sorties in the most demanding and high-threat, … most heavily defended … places that we’ve encountered in the decade of the ’90s,” such as the heart of Belgrade and Baghdad, “and we lost one,” he pointed out.

        Had the Air Force concluded there was a fundamental flaw in stealth, it would not have continued to use the F-117 and B-2 in Kosovo or would have reassigned the types to less-challenging targets, service officials insisted.

        SMSgt. Walter Franks, superintendent of maintenance for the F-117 at ACC, said there have been no maintenance change orders issued on the airplane as a result of the loss of the airplane in Kosovo.

        While Jumper echoed Ryan’s observation that the F-117 is not invisible, he noted that “in the right circumstances, it’s very, very hard to see. It will continue to be that way. And its performance continues to improve, both in its maintainability and its stealth qualities. So, I don’t see stealth being ‘on the ropes’ in any way.”

        A prominent criticism of both the F-117 and the B-2 in Kosovo centered on the fact that, even though both were billed as radar evaders, both types were supported by jamming aircraft. This was not supposed to be necessary.

        Jumper said bluntly that the F-117s and B-2s “don’t need escort jammers.” However, senior USAF officials acknowledge that the stealth aircraft certainly did coordinate missions with jamming aircraft, particularly the EA-6Bs operated jointly by the Air Force, Navy, and Marine Corps, to increase the safety margin when attacking tough targets.

      • nsKb

        Stealth aircraft aren’t invisible nor were they ever claimed to be, you fundamentally don’t understand the physics of what is going on from the looks of things.

  • Ross

    1991 was 23 years ago, not 13

  • SMSgt Mac

    Wow. Just Wow.
    Hoffman managed to get every stinking point in his B-2 narrative wrong, creating an epic allegorical fail. But it does tend to obfuscate the fawning delivery of ‘Boeing Koolaid” that followed.

  • chaos0xomega

    I’m loathe to compliment the Navy on much, particularly when it comes to the aviation field, but I think they’re the only ones thinking sensibly about aircraft acquisitions at the moment. Its sad that they, moreso than the Air Warfare branch that is supposed to be the Air Force, are seemingly solely in recognition of the fact that stealth is not the be-all-end-all that its made out to be and electronic warfare is just as important (if not moreso) in the survivability of both stealth and non-stealth air assets in a contested air environment, as well as the fact that it is a more ‘future-proof’ technology than stealth.

  • blight_


    Reading this, I begin to think that Tacit Blue (the stealthy forward air controller prototype) might be the wave of the future.

    As for the F-35, if we cancel now it’ll cost more than the B-2 when amortized over the airframes already purchased.

    We had 100 aircraft in 2013 with costs close to 400B.

  • Alva Maynor

    Many of these comments focus on the F-117 and almost try to give complete success to the mission in Bosnia/Yugoslavia to the F-117. There were other platforms equally engaged if not more so. The F-16 flew many missions and so did the A-10. I haven’t heard but I’m pretty sure the F-4 wild weasel was also used over there. The A-10 took out a lot of the hand held rocket people with superior tactics using the capabilities of the A-10. So Stealth was not the entire picture. As many of the comments suggest, it requires sound tactics and appropriate use of all your different platforms. That will win out before technology will. This fits into the discussion between using Growlers and F-35 aircraft. The discussions over the radars miss MTI or moving target indicators, which help you pick out a small target in bacground noise that is moving. The digital signal processing capabilites are probably more important than what frequency radar you are using. With the Aegis weapon system, we back migrated the digital signal processing capabilites and technology into the rest of the fleet. I started my career on Aegis and now support old aircraft for the Air Force.

  • JayE

    I’m still trying to figure out why we even need this plane.
    Because we don’t.

  • StrumPanzer

    The government should have seen the writing on the wall when LM was developing the X-35 and already was over budget by 100 million dollars. Accounting error my ass.

  • Frank

    Nobody seems to mention one of the best fighters of all time, the F-15 Eagle. It maybe old and big, but I’ll take it. It’s proven. Maybe we are asking too much of all this “new” stuff. The F-22 seems to be very good but too costly.
    I still don’t know what to make of the F-35. Yea or nea?

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