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The F-35 Lightning II offers better stealthy features (such as this landing gear door) than prior American multi-role fighters. Wikipedia

China develops high-performance radar to render US stealth technology ineffective

Various research projects in China have been focused on anti-stealth radar advances, including developing quantum radar technology. China has reported yet another breakthrough in its technological competition with the US.

Published: August 29, 2022, 7:49 am

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    The South China Morning Post (SCMP), which appears in Hong Kong, has revealed that Chinese researchers have developed a medium-wave infrared system that renders the “stealth” technology of enemy fighter jets ineffective. The system can already identify aircraft at a distance of 285 kilometers.

    The US Air Force has had “stealth” aircraft since the 1980s, which develop a much smaller radar profile than conventional aircraft due to their special coating and their unique contours. American “stealth” fighter jets were used in Iraq and against Yugoslavia in 1999 and are difficult to detect with most radars.

    China and Russia also have modern stealth aircraft.

    According to the Chinese media report, an American F-35A with a maximum speed of around 2 000 kilometers per hour could be tracked up to 9 minutes before reaching the target if the jet approaches at maximum speed. If an approaching aircraft is discovered sooner, it gives the air defense a larger time window to respond.

    The small infrared search-and-track system picked up the heat signature of a fast-moving aircraft from an unusually long distance and much faster than most existing heat seekers, the engineering team said.

    Long-distance infrared radar technology is an important factor in anti-stealth warfare. Since military aircraft equipped with stealth technology can dodge traditional radar, its body and engines nevertheless emit heat.

    Most infrared cameras cannot see beyond a range of 20km because of long infrared waves which are easily absorbed by the atmosphere. The heat-seeking radar for the Chinese J-20 stealth aircraft can pick up a US B-2 stealth bomber and an F-22 fighter from 150km and 110km away respectively.

    Size matters

    Anti-stealth radar systems usually require a large antenna to pick up the weak signature of stealth aircraft equipped with technology to absorb or deflect radar signals, but China has developed an anti-stealth radar so small it could be quietly and easily set up almost anywhere, including on a rooftop, according to the research team from Chinese defence contractor Sichuan Jiuzhou Electric Group Company.

    The heat-seeking radar can also emit a powerful laser beam to illuminate the target aircraft and gather other information, according to the researchers. Due to its small size, the device could be mounted on a car, an airplane or even a satellite for a variety of applications, including surveillance, early warning and (missile) guidance, it said.

    “The outline of the target, the rotor, the tail and the number of engines can be clearly identified from the infrared spectrum image,” explained team leader Liu Zhihui.

    The Chinese fleet could place such radars on the countless boats in the East and South China Seas, creating a forward-looking radar warning zone. In a military emergency – a war with the US – this would bring a decisive advantage and would increase enemy losses.

    The news of the technological breakthrough was released to coincide with joint military exercises with Russia this week as tensions around Taiwan continue to rise after the visit of US Speaker of the House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi.

    US sends warships to Taiwan

    The US meanwhile dispatched two Ticonderoga-class cruisers to the Taiwan Straits. This is a change from the usual US Arleigh Burke class destroyers, which are smaller than Ticonderoga-class cruisers, sent to conduct such missions.

    Beijing responded by putting its military on high alert and signaling its readiness “to stop any provocations in a timely manner”. It castigated the US as “the destroyer of peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait.”

    The PLA Eastern Theater Command Spokesperson Shi Yi issued a statement on Sunday stating that “the theater command’s troops keep high alert and are fully prepared to crack down on any provocation anytime”.


    Military exercises with Russia

    The Chinese military has arrived in Russia to participate in the Vostok-2022 exercises, Tan Kefei, spokesman for the Chinese Ministry of Defense, according to RIA Novosti.

    “Representatives of the Chinese ground forces and air force who are participating in the Vostok 2022 exercise have already arrived at their destination, set up troop groups, set up a field camp and conducted reconnaissance of the area, and conducted training flights to adapt to the terrain. Representatives of the Chinese Navy grouped with Russian ships and carried out a communication check and other exercises,” said Tan Kefei.

    According to him, participation in the Vostok-2022 exercises in Russia is aimed at increasing the level of strategic cooperation with the military of other countries, improving the ability to jointly solve security problems and eliminate various threats.

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