Is Stealth Technology Obsolete?

Is Stealth Technology Obsolete?

A U.S. Air Force F-117A 'Nighthawk' Stealth Fighter aircraft flies over Nellis Air Force Base, Nev., during the joint service experimentation process dubbed Millennium Challenge 2002. Sponsored by the US Joint Forces Command, the Millenniun Challenge 2002 experiment explores how Effects Based Operations can provide an integrated joint context for conducting rapid, decisive operations. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Aaron Allmon II) (Released)

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The US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) is looking for revolutionary enabling technologies for land, sea, air, and space applications that would put US forces far ahead of any potential adversaries such as Russia and China.

According to a broad agency announcement for the Redefining Possible project, potential adversaries have developed ways to counter today’s U.S. military systems that are built around exquisite, monolithic integrated systems. 

Instead, DARPA researchers want to develop revolutionary system architectures that are separate, dispersed, disruptive, and that instill doubt in U.S. adversaries. Technologies should improve resilience, responsiveness, range, lethality, access, endurance, and affordability.

For aircraft, researchers point out that stealth and low-observability technologies simply do not offer the advantages they used to. Adversaries have come up with generations of countermeasures since stealth was invented, and today the ability to make platforms survivable is approaching physical limits, which makes continuing the traditional path of stealth technologies impractical.

At the same time, unmanned combat air vehicles (UCAVs) have been used widely, and adversaries have developed countermeasures that have compromised the effectiveness of UCAVs and stealth technologies. DARPA researchers are interested in new enabling technologies that provide survivability for next-generation unmanned aerial systems; use distributed and disaggregated systems to reduce reliance on small numbers of exquisite platforms; enable timely delivery of targeting data; advance aircraft propulsion capabilities; machine autonomy to minimize the risk to human warfighters; and design and development 

tools to develop and field systems quickly, such as model-based systems engineering, multi-dimensional optimization, and additive manufacturing.

For ground systems, researchers are interested in technologies to improve the integration of unmanned ground systems with one another and with troops to enable both groups to operate together effectively.

DARPA also wants technologies to provide small-unit and individual warfighter mobility and lethality. For these technologies, DARPA is interested in artificial intelligence (AI) for integrated manned-unmanned ground force operations, ground robots, and ground robotic combat systems to operate at the speed of battle to keep up with human warfighters.

For these kinds of technologies, DARPA researchers want to develop new materials, manufacturing, and computational imaging to reduce the size, weight, cost, and timeliness necessary to field game-changing capabilities, according to