US F-22, F-35 Stealth Fighters Evade Detection with Device that Makes Them Visible to Russian Radar
The U.S. Air Force has been countering Russian efforts to detect its Lockheed Martin F-22 Raptor stealth jets flying over Syria by making these almost invisible fighters more visible to Russian radar systems.
This counter-intuitive solution to foiling Russian radar spying consists of installing a device called a "Luneberg Lens Radar Reflector" or a Luneberg Reflector on American stealth fighters.
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This device increases the radar cross section (RCS) of the F-22 -- which appears like a steel marble on Russian radars -- so the F-22 looks as large as an ordinary fourth generation jet fighter to a radar.
Satisfied the aircraft on their radar screens isn't an F-22, Russian radar operators won't spend an inordinate amount of time tracking this aircraft and deducing its combat capabilities.
Some experts have described the Luneberg lens as the most efficient passive radar reflector available, and one that doesn't require a power supply or maintenance.
The air force has also installed Luneberg Reflectors (also called RCS enhancers) on a number of its Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II stealth fighters to pull off the same trick against the Russians in Europe, and possibly against the Chinese.
American media has revealed that a number of air force F-35As operating in Eastern Europe near Estonia (one of the Baltic States) are equipped with Luneberg Reflectors and are now conducting aerial patrols within range of Russian radars.
Since Russian radar systems in Eastern Europe are similar to the ones it operates in Syria, the reflectors will also hoodwink Russian radar operators in Europe into believing the planes they've detected aren't stealth fighters, and aren't that much of a concern.
Since the reflectors exaggerate the RCS of the F-35, the device is preventing Russia from testing their sophisticated radar defenses against this supersonic stealth jet. It appears the air force has been testing Luneberg Reflectors on F-35s and F-22s since 2010.