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

  • 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.

    • citanon

      That’s not really true.

      The two systems complement each other. Stealth on the F-35 defeats shorter wavelength radars that are more capable at precisely tracking and targeting aircraft and more resistant to jamming.

      The anti-stealth techniques use longer wavelengths that are more difficult to counter, but more vulnerable to jamming and less precise.

      Thus, when you put the electronic attack capabilities of the Growler together with the F-35C, you end up with a winning combination. Each on its own would be deficient.

      Ultimately, you need many more of the F-35C, which are the go out there and get em bomb trucks than you need of the Growler, which help protect them from the rear and are likely less survivable.

      As for Growlers _replacing_ the F35C, that’s just desperate Boeing FUD.

      I love how people criticize Lockmart Power Point FUD only to fall head over heels for Boeing Power Point FUD.

      • BlackOwl18E

        All the Navy needs is the Advanced Super Hornet and the Growler. The F-35C is woefully unnecessary. The Advanced Super Hornet could easily take over the job the F-35C was intended for at far less cost and when it’s teamed up with the Growler no IADS could stand against them.

        Boeing recently conducted tests on the Advanced Super Hornet with the Navy and the Navy said that they think Boeing got the RCS of the Super Hornet reduced enough to be satisfactory for its needs. The F-35C is being forced on them by the USAF, USMC, and the Pentagon. It doesn’t suit their needs and soaks up a good portion of their budget while delivering an aircraft that is neither carrier compatible or combat capable.

        • citanon

          Great, proving my point by repeating Boeing marketing material back, and misinterpreting Navy statements in the same way……

          • BlackOwl18E

            I’ve been saying this since even before Boeing has. I started this about three years ago. If the only thing you can do to attack my arguments is claim that they’re made by Boeing, I’d say you don’t have anything to refute them.

            And I’m not misinterpreting anything. The Navy had placed a standard on the Advanced Super Hornet. The standard was not to beat the F-35C in terms of RCS, it was to beat the projected enemy threat and Boeing met that standard:

            Link: https://medium.com/war-is-boring/d10fcf64d089

            Link: http://www.flightglobal.com/news/articles/navy-pl

    • citanon

      Oh, and if needed, they might be able to put a jamming pod package on the F-35 to address additional waveforms. Boeing showed how with the low signature pods for the Super Duper Hornet.

      • BlackOwl18E

        Now I know you have no clue what you’re talking about. It makes no sense to add jammers to a stealth aircraft. Adding emitters to an aircraft that had been expensively built to remain hidden on the EM spectrum is utter nonsense. You lose all of the capability that you just blew billions of dollars to make and then risk all of those dollars upon its exposure to combat.

        Lockheed Martin can’t even get the F-35’s combat ready software right until 2020 and they’ve admitted to that openly. Adding the software necessary for jammers to the F-35 would take years and cost an extra billion or so dollars. The Growler fulfills the role better at a far less cost.

        I don’t know if anyone told you this, but money is a REAL thing that we don’t have a lot of right now.

    • William_C1

      What is a long time? 10 years perhaps? That isn’t very long.

      The carrier battle group needs to be capable of more than just defending itself, stealth is another weapon in an arsenal that works in conjunction with our other methods (jammer aircraft, decoys, stand-off weapons, etc.) to defeat a modern IADS.

      Yes the F-35 can’t do everything. It isn’t an uncompromising air-superiority fighter nor the sort of long-ranged strike/interdiction aircraft like the F-111 or concepts we’ve seen over the years like the FB-22. It’s an aircraft that makes a lot of trade-offs to perform a lot of different roles while not being overly difficult to maintain and operate in number. In many respects the same is true of the F/A-18. Even you can’t deny the F-14D could put the F/A-18E to shame in some regards, particularly in terms of high speed and high altitude performance.

      With 20/20 hindsight it would have made sense to do a lot of things differently, but we are here now and while the F-35C may not be all that inspiring, it will still be useful to the Navy if it does end up in their service.

      • BlackOwl18E

        You’re right. Stealth is a niche capability that can be useful.

        And the Advanced Super Hornet has enough of it to defeat the threat. The Navy doesn’t need the F-35C at all and if they were allowed to leave the F-35 program they would and they would be better off.

    • saber2

      “countering effective electronic jamming will be more difficult than countering stealth as technology develops” LOL and why are we supposed to believe your statement? Dont you think its kind of naive to dismiss a whole technology just because one particular weapon system fail? Russian has failed time and time again with Bulava, but I never heard them saying ‘screw all those solid fuel SLBM, we’ll never make them again’.

    • Jay

      I agree… But there is a differance between big land based systems and fighter based systems. In a wartime environment you need both if not more of the F-35. F-35 is an C4I aircraft able to process a lot of data and pass it to assets in the air/ground/sea. Both will be needed to overwelm the enemy force.

    • kevin

      That all sounds good but I’ve always wondered about the infer-red question. How does one hide surface heat on wing tips and nose cone? Every system will always eventually have a new tech countering that system including stealth and radar jamming.

  • 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.

        • nick987654

          This F/A-XX is a pipe dream of the USN, there is no way it can be built at a sufficently low cost to replace the super hornets with a one to one ratio. Only a medium size plane produced in mass with the air force can produce an sufficiently low cost for that.

          As for a potential USAF’s 6 gen fighter, history has shown that that kind of high-end fighter is a disaster from an aquisition standpoint. The planes, although very good, cost 3-4 times as much as a medium-class fighter that can be mass produced, when one takes into account R&D costs, increased maintenance costs of a large airframe, low production, and high upgrade costs.

          What the Navy and Air force need is a medium fighter based as much as possible on the F-35. And even if possible, an upgraded F-35 airframe ( tailless delta for reduced RCS, and significant supercruise speed ) should be studied. It it can do the job for 5-10 billion of R&D for the 2 variants, it would be worth it. With a UCAV variant too eventually.

          Also the F135 is the only engine that will have ADVENT technology in that timeframe. Starting another new engine would cost another 5-10 billion.

      • 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.

  • 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.

    • Big-Dean

      we have certainly fallen in the cold war trap of thinking. During the cold war our thinking was that our “stuff” was far superior to the Russians. As it was to a degree. But when you have a single, say very good tank, facing 10 good tanks the very good one will lose every time

      So now we are doing the same thing with the F-35. It’s supposed to be a ‘very good’ aircraft but when the Chinese are building ‘good’ ones at a 4-1 ratio it really doesn’t matter how good your ‘very good’ is because you’ll be dead.

  • 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.

      • Michael_AF_Ret

        Everyone should know that if you make a change to the process it costs money. How long have we been doing this song and dance. Cost overruns happen when projections are designed to “sell” and not to be realistic. Every part has materials requirements. If the material cost goes up, so does the cost of the part. When you are looking at an aircraft designed from the ground up and not based on any existing air frame, you are looking at a much more expensive end item. Those first 50 are going to be the more expensive than the last aircraft re-design. If you reduce the number of aircraft, then you have to depend on older aircraft to do the job. Those older aircraft are hitting 40 years of service. Maintenance on them will cost 100s of billions to keep them in service and we don’t have any idea if they can do the job. If one gets shot down, you’ve lost not only the aircraft but the pilot as well. A pilot that has gone through very costly training over a period of years. Intelligence is needed. Not only about the threats capabilities; but, the managers running the F-35 program and Congress. And, the later is very unlikely.

    • Chuck

      The A-6 was also a two engine aircraft.

    • 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.

    • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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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