How are ‘stealth airplanes’ made stealthy?

The special design of the stealth aircraft makes the airplanes less detectable audibly, visually, thermally and thus on radars. This does not mean that the technology makes them invisible, but they are far less prone to identification than the conventional airplanes. Stealth technology has a huge role in warfare techniques, and thus extensive research is being carried on to develop it and make the technology more foolproof.

The first wave of development

The very basis of technology lies in the design that diverted radar waves perpendicularly. If radar waves reflected back directly to the enemy device, it would mean the aircraft is detected. Airplanes with stealth technology were first developed in the Have Blue Project by Lockheed. The first airplanes that used stealth technology flew during 1977 and 1979. Handling and speed was not typical with stealth airplanes, but rather it was stealing into enemy territories that mattered.

Stealth technology successfully violates radio frequency spectrums, infrared radiation, sonar detection and general visibility to quite an extent. The technology uses a combination of low observable features along with active emitters, laser and radio detectors. Usually these are combined with defenses like Flares, Chaff and ECM.

The technology was a result of the innovative mathematical model

Stealth technology uses the mathematical model, which was developed by Dr. Petr Ufimtsev who was a Russian scientist. With the help of his model a computer generated program by the name of Echo 1 was developed. The program made it possible for predicting radar signatures of flat paneled aircraft, called facets. Scientists at Lockheed found out that aircraft with facet surfaces radiate away most of the radar energy and thus gives low radar signatures. The first model developed was called ‘Hopeless Diamond’.

Stealth aircraft has reduced cross section that makes it difficult for radars to detect. Also the designers of the stealth aircraft seek to control radio transmission, noise abatement and make it hard for infrared homing missiles to detect.

The basic features of stealth aircrafts other than these are:


Since the stealth aircrafts and vehicles are increasingly being developed the stealth detection technology too is getting improved. A low radar cross section reduces the radar signature of the aircrafts and vehicles which help them sneak successfully into the enemy’s territory.


The design and shape of an aircraft have considerable influence on its radar signature. The fortuitous and vertical design of the tail and body of an aircraft like that of the ‘Avro Vulcan’ can make a huge aircraft less vulnerable to radar detection. Re-entrant triangles are the structures behind the skin of the stealth aircraft that capture radar waves and not allowing it to bounce back. Alternation of the design of the tail and hiding the engines comfortably from radar waves baffles enemy devices and makes a good stealth flying vessel. A Planform alignment also increases the stealth of an aircraft.


Radars detect dielectric composites more effectively. Carbon fibers and metals reflect radiation better, and so it requires non metallic materials in making of a stealth aircraft.


Camouflaging is of prime importance in stealth aircrafts. Designers use paints in an effective way to escape the eyes of the enemy.

More Entries

Leave a Reply