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Stealth Technology – Magic or Human Ingenuity

Conventionally, the body of a plane is rounded. When a burst of electromagnetic energy is sent towards the incoming air-craft, the rounded surface is helpful in reflection of the electromagnetic energy. The time taken to send and receive the signals provides the distance of the plane in the air. This is how radar works.

From the days of World War 2 efforts were on to develop an air-craft that could successfully penetrate enemy defenses, cause destruction and return safely. Measures like jamming the radar system and painting the air craft with materials that absorbed electromagnetic energy were not much of a success. The world had yet to experience what is called the stealth technology of today.

During the days of the Cold War, Bill Schroeder, a mathematician working for aircraft maker, Lockheed, watched a movie. In the movie, a rabbit had the power of being invisible at will. An idea struck Schroeder of making a plane that could become invisible too. He started to search for resources and finally discovered an obscure 20-year-old scientific paper by a Russian Scientist Pyotr Ufimtsev. Ufimtsev proposed that an aircraft can be built that will be less detected by the radar. For this, the aircraft was required to have flat surfaces at irregular angles, rather than the conventional round shape.

Bill Schroeder developed a computer program that made it possible to design such a plane in the years to follow. The design of the plane was such that its exterior made the incoming electromagnetic energy into narrow beams. This was possible because the exterior of the plane was painted with special radar absorption paint called “Iron Ball”. The beams were later redirected away from the enemy’s radar antenna. It happened because the exterior of the plane was angled irregularly.

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