The world is starting to pay more attention to stealth fighters. Stealth aircraft such as the Su-57, J-20, FC-31 and newer designs like the Su-75 and NGAD are certainly of interest. But on the F-35 really offers: The F-35 II Lighting is touted as one of the most undetectable planes to ever take flight. The effectiveness of the fifth generation fighter aircraft largely depends on its stealth capabilities.
In an era of advanced air defense and radar technology, and with nearby adversaries with advanced military capabilities, such as China and Russia, every “ounce” of stealth is needed for the F-35 to survive in contested airspace. the United States Air Force literally hand-paints its fifth-generation aircraft to achieve this.
“Hide” the F-35 one brush at a time
At 51 feet long and 35 feet wide, the F-35 is no small plane, especially if you have to hand-paint it with a radar-absorbing coating. Specially trained and skilled airmen spent hours and hours preparing the classified chemical mixture and applying it correctly to the aircraft.
“You can’t just read the steps from the manual. There are requirements for who can do it and inspect it… We take doing it right very seriously. We pride ourselves on being experts in our craft because it depends so much on us. There is definitely an art to what we do,” said Master Sergeant John Knowles, section leader of the 388 Maintenance Squadron, in a Press release.
Every F-35 Lighting II comes with a special coat of paint. It is important to note that stealth does not mean invisible. Instead, stealth makes things harder for enemy radar to see and track an aircraft. The plane itself is still visible to the naked eye.
“The panels go through a very thorough process of different coatings just to remove the latches and cover the fasteners. Ultimately there has to be a balance between covering the panel with the appropriate material while maintaining full functionality. is the work most frequently done in the shop, while encompassing the processes of many of their tasks within the unit,” said Staff Sergeant Matthew Hicks, an unobservable craftsman from 419 Squadron of maintenance.
The special coating, also known as low observability technology, ensures that an adversary would have difficulty detecting, tracking or targeting by radar or missiles the F-35.
“My favorite part of the job is the painting because it’s kind of like an art. You can see it from the start and then see it from the end,” said Airman 1st Class Evander Esperanza, a low-observable journeyman at 388 Maintenance Squadron.
But in addition to being pleasing to the eye, the coating should cover all surfaces, even in places with little sun exposure, to ensure that the equipment does not corrode, leading to increased maintenance times or even a accident.
F-35: the future of the Air Force
The Air Force has based its entire near future on the F-35, the aircraft must therefore perform at the expected level and cope with all known and even unknown threats. The Pentagon plans to purchase approximately 2,500 aircraft of the three variants.
“The F-35 Joint Strike Fighter is the cornerstone of our future fighter force and air superiority. Achieving air superiority in future combat is highly dependent on full-spectrum dominance. The F-35 and its fifth-generation capabilities are part of our fighter force design that exceeds our primary competitors,” said Army Chief of Staff Gen. CQ Brown, Jr. air, about the F-35.
[1945’sNewColumnofDefenseandNationalSecurity[1945’sNouveauchroniqueurdedéfenseetdesécuriténationaleStavros Atlamazoglou is a defense journalist specialized in special operationsa Hellenic Army veteran (National Service with the 575th Marine Battalion and Army HQ) and a graduate of Johns Hopkins University.