Moscow-run news agencies are touting Russia’s ability to undermine the U.S.’s F-35 stealth fighter jet, but the Pentagon is not worried.
Sputnik News, headquartered in Moscow, reported earlier this week that Russia has three radar stations that can detect and track the fifth-generation jet. The article, titled “I See You,” says that Russian technology can undermines the F-35’s core strength of stealth.
“The Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II is the most advanced aircraft in the Pentagon’s arsenal,” Sputnik News says. “Russia’s powerful over-the-horizon Podsolnukh (Sunflower) radar is capable of detecting and tracking the stealth fifth-generation plane or any other fighter jet that was designed to avoid detection,” Sputnik said.
Despite Russia’s assertions, the Pentagon is confident in the F-35’s ability to perform in combat. “Don’t believe the hype,” Joe DellaVedova, a spokesperson for the Joint Strike Fighter program office, told The Daily Caller News Foundation in an email.
While it is possible that Russia’s radar can detect and even track the F-35 — no stealth jet can perfectly evade radar all the time — the Pentagon is not concerned about Russia’s radar power because the F-35 can interrupt multiple parts of the enemy’s attack.
When China claimed in February that they could track the F-22 Raptor, National Interest wrote that “stealth is not a cloak of invisibility, after all. Stealth technology simply delays detection and tracking.” Even if Russia’s Sunflower radar is capable of detecting or tracking the plane, the stealth fighter has enough other capabilities to be effective in defensive or offensive scenarios.
Like other advanced systems, the F-35’s value is determined by how well it breaks up what the military calls the enemy’s “kill chain.” All attacks follow the kill chain structure. Shooting at something is only one part of the total attack. Offensive strikes always start with identifying the target, restricting and tracking its movement. Radar is one of the key tools used for identifying and tracking targets.
Only when the target is stable can the attack move on to aiming, firing and ensuring the target is down. The beauty of the kill chain, at least for defensive purposes, is that if you break just one link, your enemy can’t kill you.
“Tracking is only one piece of the kill chain,” DellaVedova said. “The F-35 is well-equipped to disrupt, disable and destroy various links in the chain.”
Russia claims to have three Sunflower radar stations. Two are in near the Pacific Ocean, on the Sea of Okhotsk and the Sea of Japan, and one is near the Caspian Sea. RT News, also a Russian-owned outlet, reports that by 2017, Russia will have two more stations in the Baltic and Black seas.
The United Kingdom was the first country to join the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter Program, and just received its first jets last week. Other program members include several European countries, Canada, Turkey, Australia and Japan.
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