Serbian Air Defenses Take on Stealth
Early in the attacks on targets in Kosovo and Serbia, the U.S. Air Force lost an F-117A stealth fighter (actually a light bomber)—raising the question of just how effective stealth technology really is, a question particularly pertinent as the U.S. Air Force begins to buy extremely expensive F-22 stealth fighters.
The Russians naturally claimed that the bomber had been shot down by one of their surface-to-air missiles, guided by a Russian-supplied radar. That may be dismissed as a marketing ploy (the Russians offer an antistealth modification of an existing metric-wave radar), but it certainly bears consideration. Another possibility is that the F-117A was detected by an infrared (IR) search device, which might have picked up either the glow of its wings caused by aerodynamic heating or the heat of its engine exhausts. For all the talk of stealth enthusiasts, it seems that antiradar measures have been far more successful than anti-IR measures. Among other things, it is not clear just how the energy caused by air friction or the thermodynamics of jet engines can be dissipated.