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According to Pierre Sprey, the technology to detect stealth aircraft (e.g. the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter in air by radar has been around ever since the Battle of Britain (i.e. 1940, early World War II).

Source: Interview with Pierre Sprey:

Interviewer: How stealth capable is the F-35?

Pierre Sprey: The first thing to know about stealth is it is a scam. It simply doesn't work. Radars that were built in 1942 can detect every stealth airplane in the world today.

Is this true?

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    It's never been claimed that the F35 is 'invisible' to any radar, modern day or WW2 era, and making it 'invisible' was never the point. The intention is to make it harder to detect. – DJClayworth Jan 28 '17 at 16:46
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    @Levon: Very few birds fly at several hundred km/hr. This might raise a few eyebrows among the radar operators :-) Oh, and modern radar as used by ATC (in the US) can pick up at least flocks of birds. I've several times had them tell me of a target at such & such a bearing, and looked to see a flock of birds. (Or sometimes a hang glider...) – jamesqf Jan 28 '17 at 17:42
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    @jamesqf - detecting a flock of birds is entirely different to detecting a single bird in terms of radar returns – HorusKol Jan 29 '17 at 22:24
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    It's just the low frequency component of WWII radar that is relevant here, you need modern technology to make good use of that. So, instead of using a WWII radar, you need to use a phased array system that will give you the benefits of the long wavelength that renders stealth ineffective (the reflection of the signal off the different parts of the plane will be in phase if the signal has a long wavelength) while the angular resolution will still be good (the distance between the different radar antennae in the array can be made very large). – Count Iblis Jan 30 '17 at 5:42
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    Just a heads up. In credible aerospace circles, Pierre Sprey is universally mocked as the least reliable source on modern aerial warfare, especially when talking about the F-35. This quote in particular has been widely repeated... and repeatedly debunked. For more info on stealth, see How Will Stealth Fighters Each Other in aviation.se. CTRL+F Myth: Stealth is obsolete / a hoax and Myth: WWII radars – Hephaestus Aetnaean Feb 11 '17 at 16:29
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This answers your question very well: https://warisboring.com/how-to-kill-the-f-35-stealth-fighter-a66e167dded5#.tyab8jppt

In essence, longer wavelength radars can track stealth fighters, but they are not necessarily able to guide a weapon to the target. The article talks about work arounds to the problem and explains it well.

It should be noted that large wavelength radars tend to have large antennae. They would be more likely to be mounted on a truck then in the tip of a missile or fighter. AWAC style planes would be more likely to contain them, and sensor fusion could be used to provide a weapons quality radar guidance.

Radar means less and less with the availability of IR search and track systems. Jet engines are hot.

  • "The article talks about work arounds to the problem and explains it well." Answers should be stand-alone. Links can rot. Your answer could be greatly improved by adding more information into the answer iself. – Mast Feb 19 '17 at 19:41
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What one has to understand about Stealth technology is that it does not make the radar signature completely disappear, it reduces the radar signature. Longer wavelength radar means that everything has a larger signature. This results in a lot of 'clutter'. We don't want clutter, so most radars operate at shorter wavelengths. In the early days of Radar technology, we did not have enough power to create the shorter wavelength radars. This resulted in all radars being operated at long wavelengths.

The net result of this is that if a WWII radar was able to see through the clutter that using longer wavelengths produces, it would be more likely to see a stealth aircraft then a similar radar operated at shorter wavelengths. I question if a WWII era radar would be able to see through the clutter easily enough to spot a stealth plane. That the basic capability (producing long wavelength radars) has existed since 1942 and with improvements could detect stealth aircraft does seem reasonable.

  • I suppose the Russians are somehow able to filter aircraft their radar signature from the clutter using the mobile radar installations Pierre described as "brilliant". – Levon Jan 28 '17 at 16:49

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