The U.S. and its allies continue to invest heavily in the F-35 and other stealth-capable aircraft. But Russia and China are rapidly developing systems that would negate the benefits that stealth offers.


Photo: US Air Force Randy Gon

If such Chinese and Russian systems are ultimately proven effective, the U.S.' reliance upon stealth technology will need to be radically evaluated.

At the same time, both Chinese and Russian claims of the technology's status should be viewed with some skepticism.

Chinese military technology is often based on designs stolen from U.S. and other allied countries, which calls Beijing's domestic research and development capabilities into question. Additionally, rampant corruption throughout the Chinese military may undermine the country's ability to fight or develop advanced technologies.

Russia also faces serious challenges to its military ambitions. Large-scale economic problems throughout the country — the partial result of EU and U.S. sanctions stemming from Russia's aggressive policies in Ukraine — have limited Russia's military procurement. Already, Russia is cancelling the construction of most of its planned next-generation tanks and may have be scrapping of plans for a fifth-generation bomber. Any new stealth drone could face similar funding hurdles.

Still, the potential rise of anti-stealth drones should worry the U.S., as it could expose an over-reliance on stealth technology that suddenly has far less tactical and strategic worth.

Some in the Pentagon already feel that way. In February, Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Jon Greenert gave a speech in which he called out the potential limitations of stealth technology.

"You can only go so fast, and you know that stealth may be overrated," Greenery said. "Let's face it, if something moves fast through the air, disrupts molecules and puts out heat — I don't care how cool the engine can be, it's going to be detectable. You get my point."

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