Get Task & Purpose in your inbox
Did the Pentagon Just Admit Stealth Technology May Not Even Work Anymore?
Did the Pentagon just admit that stealth technology may not work anymore? Or that America must be ready to face a future where its airpower doesn't control the skies?
The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, the Pentagon's cutting-edge research agency, has quietly raised these possibilities as it searches for future technology to fight the next war. And stealth technology may not be the answer.
“Platform stealth may be approaching physical limits,” says DARPA.
The agency also admits that “our acquisition system is finding it difficult to respond on relevant timescales to adversary progress, which has made the search for next-generation capabilities at once more urgent and more futile.”
If that’s the case, then the next generation of aircraft—the designs that will eventually replace the F-22, F-35 and B-2 stealth aircraft—may not be any stealthier than their predecessors. Or, in the endless race between stealth technology and the sensors that seek to penetrate its veil, stealth may have hit a brick wall.
A U.S. Air Force F-117A Nighthawk Stealth Fighter aircraft flies over Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada, during the joint service experimentation process dubbed Millennium Challenge 2002 (MC02)U.S. Air Force/Staff Sgt. Aaron Allmon II
Thus, DARPA has to ask a question that America has never really had to contemplate before. “Are there acceptable alternatives to air dominance?” DARPA asks. “Is it possible to achieve Joint Force objectives without clearing the skies of enemy fighters and bombers, and eliminating all surface-based threats? Can this be achieved without placing a high-value, sophisticated platform and crew at risk — reducing leverage potential adversaries currently hold over the U.S.?”
DARPA says it wants to see if it's possible to “go beyond evolutionary advances in stealth technology and disrupt traditional doctrines of air dominance/air supremacy?”
But the traditional U.S. way of war since 1941 has been to seek control of the skies: though there have been rough patches, such as the Pacific War in 1941 and the Bomber Offensive over Germany in 1943–44, America has largely succeeded in clearing the skies of enemy planes and filling them with its own. Few Americans alive today have ever been bombed by aircraft, which is more than America’s enemies can say.
But those days are gone, as Russia and now China are developing stealth aircraft and lethal anti-aircraft missiles.
Now, DARPA is looking for other ways that U.S airpower can accomplish its objectives even without air superiority, such as “lethality through a combination of overwhelming performance (e.g. hypersonics) and overwhelming numbers (e.g. swarming low-cost weapons).”
Indeed, the Pentagon's pet research agency seems to be taking a swipe at the concept of small numbers of expensive aircraft like the F-35 stealth fighter and B-2 stealth bomber when it calls for “reduced reliance on increasingly complex, monolithic platforms.”
Similarly, “how can we reduce reliance on large, expensive, and increasingly vulnerable carrier strike group platforms?” DARPA asks.
It sees one possible solution as “small, inexpensive, massively-networked vessels derived from commercial designs.” That same approach also applies to space, as the United States moves away from “monolithic, high-value space assets and instruments” in favor of smaller, simpler and cheaper satellites and launch vehicles.
On land, DARPA suggests the future of war will be smaller and more lethal ground units operating without the immense infrastructure of forward operating bases and long supply lines. The agency envisions autonomous “terranets” (presumably AI-controlled) that will coordinate the activities of brigade-sized formations of manned and unmanned units, as they battle in the darkness of the emerging domain of subterranean warfare.
Interestingly, the example of future ground combat that DARPA cites is “Starship Troopers,” the legendary sci-fi novel and movies of troops in powered armor. But Robert Heinlein’s novel was really Iwo Jima and Okinawa in space.
Whether DARPA’s vision is prophetic or just premature remains to be seen.
Read the full DARPA report below:
This story originally appeared on The National Interest.
Read more from The National Interest
- How the Air Force Would Destroy North Korea
- 10 Reasons No Nation Wants to Fight Israel
- Could the F-117 Nighthawk Make a 'Stealth' Comeback?
An Army colonel's alleged abuse saddled his wife with ongoing medical needs. Escaping him could bring that care to a screeching halt.
Katherine Burton was sitting on her couch when she heard a scream.
Though she had not yet met her upstairs neighbors, Army. Col. Jerel Grimes and his wife Ellizabeth, Burton went to investigate almost immediately. "I knew it was a cry for help," she recalled of the August 1 incident.
Above her downstairs apartment in Huntsville, Alabama, Jerel and Ellizabeth had been arguing. They had been doing a lot of that lately. According to Ellizabeth, Jerel, a soldier with 26 years of service and two Afghanistan deployments under his belt, had become increasingly controlling in the months since the couple had married in April, forcing her to share computer passwords, receipts for purchases, and asking where she was at all times.
"I was starting to realize how controlling he was, and how manipulative he was," Ellizabeth said. "And he'd never been this way towards me in the 15 years that I've known him."
Taliban fighters attempted to fight their way into Bagram Airfield on Wednesday by invading a medical facility just outside of the base's perimeter, a spokesman for Operation Resolute Support said Wednesday.
J.P. Lawrence of Stars and Stripes and Jim LaPorta of Newsweek first reported that the battle lasted for several hours after using car bombs to attack the hospital, which is near the base's northern corner. Helicopter and fixed-wing aircraft were reportedly used to drop ordnance on the hospital.
Actor Mark Wahlberg will be visiting troops overseas to plug Wahlburgers, a fast-casual restaurant chain owned by the actor and his two brothers, Donnie Wahlberg, and chef Paul Wahlberg.
MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russia's only aircraft carrier, the Admiral Kuznetsov, caught fire on Thursday during maintenance work in Russia's Arctic port in Murmansk, and two soldiers were injured, Russian news agencies cited the defense ministry as saying.