Tech

How the B-2's stealth technology beats ground radar

For years, stealth technology has been silently dominating the world's skies on various missions.


In 1912, German engineers wrapped their planes in transparent canvas to make them harder to spot during flight. But their plan failed as the coating ended up reflecting sunlight rather than hiding the plane.

Nowadays, stealth is all about beating the electronic eye rather than the human one.

Related: 5 countries that tried to shoot down the SR-71 Blackbird (and failed)

Most anti-aircraft ground radar sends out pulses of electromagnetic energy in forms of radio waves. The surface antenna then switches to receiver mode and waits for the pulses to return from the flying objects it's tracking.

Once the pulse returns to the antenna, the computer systems will show a blip on the screen called a "Radar Cross Section." Depending on the size of the incoming pulse, the image will reflect the size of the flying object on the screen.

The bigger the flying object to larger the blip.

The B-2 Spirit soaring through the sky after a refueling mission over the Pacific Ocean. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Bennie J. Davis III)

The B-2 has a 52-meter wingspan, yet it's reported to have the same radar cross section as a large bird.

But how is it that even possible? We're glad you asked.

Also Read: This is why the Air Force wants a stealthy new cruise missile

The B-2's genius design allows it to almost go unnoticed in whatever area it operates.

The B-2's shape manages to reflect the ground radar signals away from the aircraft making detection near impossible.

Notice how the aircraft's intakes and exhaust systems are embedded on the top of the jet's frame. This sleek construction helps ensure that ground-based radars can't detect them like they would a standard plane.

A close up on the B-2. Notice low-profile intake vents.

One notable stealth characteristic of the B-2 is the lack of a tail rudder. Instead, the aircraft comes with split rudders installed in the left and right wing. They act as air brakes and can help steer the plane without requiring large surfaces that could reflect radar imagery back at the enemy.

The B-2 is built with carbon fiber reinforced plastic and coated with radar absorbing paint. Although this information is readily obtainable, the exact materials are considered classified — for now.

Check out Real Engineering's video below to see how this amazing aircraft beats out the enemy's ground radar systems.

Real Engineering, YouTube
 
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