CDR R W. Connell
15 November 2007
Stealth Technology throughout History
Development of stealth technology for aircraft began before World War I. Because RADAR had not been invented, visibility was the sole concern, and the goal was to create aircraft that were hard to see. In 1912, German designers produced a largely transparent monoplane; its wings and fuselage were covered by a transparent material derived from cellulose, the basis of movie film, rather than the opaque canvas standard in that era. Interior struts and other parts were painted with light colors to further reduce visibility. The plane was effectively invisible from the ground when flow at 900 ft (274 m) or higher, and faintly visible at lower altitudes. Several transparent German aircraft saw combat during World War I, and Soviet aircraft designers attempted the design of transparent aircraft in the 1930s.
With the invention of RADAR during World War II, stealth became both more needful and more feasible: more needful because RADAR was highly effective at detecting aircraft, and would soon be adapted to guiding antiaircraft missiles and gunnery at them, yet more feasible because to be RADAR-stealthy an aircraft did need to be not be completely transparent to radio waves; it could absorb or deflect them.
During World War II, Germany coated the snorkels of its submarines with RADAR-absorbent paint to make them less visible to RADARs carried by Allied antisubmarine aircraft. In 1945 the U.S. developed a RADAR-absorbent paint containing iron. It was capable of making an airplane less RADAR-reflective, but was heavy; several coats of the material, known as MX-410, could make an aircraft unwieldy or even too heavy to fly. However, stealth development continued throughout the postwar years. In the mid 1960s, the U.S. built a high-altitude reconnaissance aircraft, the Lockheed SR-71 Blackbird, which was extremely RADAR-stealthy for its day. The SR-71 included a number of...