Skip to comments.Don’t Sweat Russia’s Stealth-Fighter-Detecting New Radar
Posted on 07/11/2016 10:51:10 AM PDT by sukhoi-30mki
Russia is the latest country to claim that it has developed a new radar system that can detect stealth warplanes. But the Sunflower low-frequency over-the-horizon radar likely suffers all the same drawbacks that have plagued previous generations of similar sensors. Namely, Sunflower might be able to detect a low-observable airplane. But it probably cant do so with great fidelity nor generate a useful targeting track for a missile to follow. Despite Russias claim, stealth aircraft are no less difficult to find, target and destroy now than they were before the Sunflowers introduction.
Russian media touted the Sunflower radar in a series of article in early July 2016. Russias powerful over-the-horizon Sunflower radar is capable of detecting and tracking the stealth fifth-generation plane or any other fighter jet that was designed to avoid detection, state-owned website Sputnik News reported on July 2, citing an earlier article in Svobodnaya Pressa, an independent Russian tabloid.
Sunflower and similar radars see stealth fighter jets as clearly as World War II-era aircraft, Svobodnaya Pressa claimed.
Sunflower radar. Photo via RT
Technically speaking, thats almost certainly true. Fighter-size stealth aircraft are optimized to avoid detection by radars in higher-frequency bands such as the C, X, Ku and part of the S band.
Low-frequency radars with larger wavelengths arent really affected by the stealth features that tend to defeat higher-frequency sensors. Theres a resonant effect with low-frequency radars that can generate a significant signal return despite an aircrafts low-observable shaping and radar-absorbing coating.
But the same qualities that allow a low-frequency radar to detect a stealth fighter also prevent it from detecting the same aircraft with great precision. Mike Pietrucha, a former U.S. Air Force an electronic warfare officer, told reporter Dave Majumdar from The National Interest that early low-frequency radars could poinpoint a targets location to within only 10,000 feet or so not nearly accurately enough to guide a missile.
For that reason, low-frequency radars such as Sunflower are useful only as early-warning systems. All they can do is alert air-defenders to the likely presence of low-observable aircraft in a general area.
To be fair, thats not an insignificant contribution to a counter-air campaign. But its also not new. The United States, Russia, China and Iran among other countries have long deployed low-frequency radars for early-warning purposes.
Stealth fighters have always been visible to these sensors and always will be. Sunflowers supposed counterstealth prowess speaks more to the strict physical limitations of low-observable fighter-design and less to a stealth-defeating breakthrough on Russias part.
Whats perhaps most impressive about Sunflower isnt its ability to detect stealth fighters, but its comparative compactness. Many low-frequency radars installations are huge and power-intensive and big, fat targets during a shooting war.
Sunflower, by contrast, is small and portable, according to media reports. The system could be put online in 10 days and needs a team of just three people to stay operational, Sputnik explained. It does not need much power, it is easy to operate and it does not have much equipment.
Sunflower clearly trades performance for portability.
Where larger low-frequency radars can detect targets thousands of miles away, the new Russian system reportedly has a range of just 300 miles or so.
But there are clear tactical advantages in being able to quickly set up large numbers of smaller, low-frequency radars. Russia could, on short notice, deploy batteries of Sunflowers on the periphery of conflict zones in order to begin getting a vague idea of where U.S. and allied stealth fighters are operating.
Thats hardly a sure-fire way of defeating stealth.
But its not nothing.
How long until war with Russia?
The fact is that no ‘stealth plane’ is immune to detection from all wavelengths. The problem becomes one of the resolution of detection. With enough locators with the right areas of coverage and coordination can locate platforms that are supposed to be stealthy.
These low frequency arrays have been around for a long time. Often used for OTH and the odd use. The fact is that stealth planes are optimized for expected RF locator sources. That usually means from head-on incursion angles. Detection from underneath, or overhead (think satellites my friends) and the game gets trickier.
The truth is that stealth is for use against non sophisticated targets. They are not invulnerable from passive systems using ubiquitous sources, nor are they completely radar invisible. To believe ‘stealth’ is the panacea is foolish.
perfect. they’re spending money that they don’t have. it’s sort of what defensive spending is all about; our economic engine can drive our defense industry, while theirs cannot.
that’s what caused their first collapse. it’s likely to cause a second one.
One legend in the EWO community was that one of ours overflew one of theirs and blanked both out to ATC thereby revealing it's presence.
Get back to me on Nov. 9th.
Detection has nothing to do with tracking. This RADAR type is Early Warning (EW) and is meant to hand off to a Target Tracker (TT) by providing range, bearing and altitude.
Can’t get enough data for target resolution?
Well, if ya got a gazillion sites and missiles...
Don’t forget that the lower the return signal from the stealthy target, the higher gain required by the receiver to reliably detect a signal. This also makes such radar more susceptible to jamming, and the jamming signal doesn’t need to be as powerful, making jamming pods smaller.
It would also be fairly easy to deploy decoys that could passively or actively emulate a larger target in the lower frequencies, further complicating any attempted intercept.
You start jamming and they you absolutely tell them something is up. I’m just telling you that stealth isn’t the cure all. I know better.
“First Secretary, the infrared guidance system is not the most accurate means of aiming. It may be necessary for a Soviet aircraft to act as a target. Will you give that order?”
“Very well, First Secretary, then the American is bound to fly into our trap.”
Detecting “something” in the air with a high-power radar is one thing; locating it with the precision necessary to destroy it is something else entirely.
Are you aware that cellular system signals can be used to form a passive location system?
Hurray! Then we can impose a progressive, leftist, George Soros-sponsored Goldman Sachs President, and force them to be all-in on the gay-marriage and Muslim immigration thing which we tried before. Can we bring Pussy Riot out of retirement? In fact, no country will fold faster with a few million mid-east Muslims, given its own Muslim population.
No more worries about Russia frustrating Saudi plans in the Mid-East either or being a counter-weight to EU/Brussels plans for Europe. Once that happens, Russia will be broken up and will never bother us again.
All one needs is a general location in which to focus assets with better resolution, longer signal integration times and the like. Add multi-banded capability to bear the same resources and you aren’t stealthy any more.
My wife gave me a cellphone years ago, also known as a male tracking device.
yeah, that’s exactly what I said. hysteria much?
“all you need to know is where it is, and then you will be able to find out where it is!”
just thinking about logical consequences...
That is true with all IADS, but with a resolution that can only get you within 10,000 meters you are asking a lot of most Target Track platforms that only have a 1 degree beam width. 10km is a lot of damn sky to search. Plus you will have to have multiple systems up radiating. Those systems have now told the enemy where they are.
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