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Stealth Technology and its Effect on Aerial Warfare

Group Captain Vivek Kapur was Research Fellow at the Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses (IDSA), New Delhi. Click here for detailed profile
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  • IDSA Monograph Series No. 33
    2014

    In aerial warfare technology has progressed rapidly from the frail and flimsy machines seen in the air in the first half of the twentieth century. In the jet age that started soon after World War-II military aviation initially expanded into higher speeds and multirole capabilities. In the early 1970s the concept of making military aircraft more difficult to detect gained the attention of design and development teams. Since then the world has seen the F-117 “Nighthawk”, the world's first stealth or “low observable” fighter. This was followed shortly by the F-22 “Raptor” and F-35 “Lightning-II”. The performance of the F-117 in the Gulf War of 1991 and in Kosovo made it clear that stealth was a revolutionary technology. Programmes to make stealth aircraft thereafter commenced in other parts of the world as well with the Russians developing the PAK FA and PAK DA, China working on the J-20, J-31, and “sharp sword” Unmanned Combat Air Vehicle (UCAV), and India working on the Advanced Medium Combat aircraft (AMCA), Fifth Generation Fighter Aircraft (FGFA) and Autonomous Unmanned Research aircraft (AURA). Stealth has been seen as practically invincible by the lay public. However, an understanding of how stealth technology works and an examination of the possible means of countering stealth aircraft help come to a more balanced understanding of this important technology. This monograph attempts to commence this task of explaining stealth technology, looking at possible counters to stealth and discussing the ways in which stealth technology changes the conduct of aerial warfare.

    About the Author

    Group Captain Vivek Kapur is a serving Indian Air Force fighter pilot. He has extensive experience in fighter flying, operational command, as well as in training appointments. He has worked as a Research Fellow at the Centre for Air Power Studies (CAPS) in the past and was a Research Fellow at the Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses (IDSA) during 2012 and 2013. He is currently a Senior Fellow at CAPS. Gp. Capt. Kapur holds a M.Sc. degree in Defence and strategic Studies from Madras University as well as an MBA from Delhi University, and is pursuing a Doctoral degree at the school of International Studies (SIS) at Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU), New Delhi.

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