The Aeronautical Superpowers are at war on Stealth Technology right now. Stealth Technology is also referred to as Low Observable Technology or LO Technology.
The objective of using stealth technology is to make a moving object invisible to the radiations used for detecting. Stealth Aircraft are the future of new-generation warfare.
Operation Neptune Spear
Remember 2nd May 2011? An operation code named Neptune Spear was executed by the United States. In this operation, two Black Hawks MH-60 stealth helicopters were used. No one knows about the secret stealth technology used in the making of those two helicopters.
However, one of the two helicopters was crash-landed during the operation in Pakistan, so the operators destroyed the helicopter to conceal the stealth secret. The Navy Seals were not able to destroy the helicopter completely.
The tail rotor section was partially intact. In one of the papers, it was mentioned that Pakistan gave the Chinese Army access to the crashed helicopter. It is also believed that Chinese officials also collected samples and photographs of the wreckage.
This was the first time in history that a stealth helicopter was used. Till now, in 2021, no country has ever used stealth technology in helicopters except the United States. Read in detail about the interesting helicopters used in the Neptune Spear operation here.
Now let’s move on to the main section of this article and enlist the top 10 best stealth aircraft ever made on this planet.
1. Lockheed Martin F-22 Raptor
The F-22 Raptor is a masterpiece of Lockheed Martin Company. Lockheed Martin leads the way for advanced aircraft technologies.
F-22 Raptor is a fifth-generation, single-seater, double-engined, stealth aircraft designed and developed only for the United States Air Force. Along with Lockheed Martin, Boeing also provides support like avionics integration.
A total of 195 F-22 Raptor aircraft were built and the United States has possession of all of them as this aircraft is banned for export by the US Federal Law. The reason for prohibiting the export is to protect the stealth technology.
Some basic specifications of the F-22 Raptor are shown in the table below. See more details about the F-22 Raptor here.
|Total Length||18.91 meters|
|Total Height||5.09 meters|
|Fuel capacity||8,200 kg|
|Maximum speed||Mach 2.25 or 1,500 mph|
|Cost Per Unit||$150 million|
2. Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II
The F-35 Lightning II is also a product of Lockheed Martin introduced in 2015. F-35 Lightning is a fifth-generation, single-engine, and single-seater stealth aircraft designed for warfare and Intelligence, Surveillance, Target-Acquisition, and Reconnaissance (ISTAR) capabilities.
More than 625 fighters are made as of April 2021. The F-35 has three versions F-35A, F-35B, F-35C. These vary in dimensions, payload capacity, and range, etc. The maximum recorded speed of F-35 is 1.6 Mach. As of April 2021, 15 countries are using Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning in their armed forces.
Besides the United States, these include United Kingdom, Turkey, Japan, and Australia, etc. Some basic specifications of the F-35 Lightning II are shown in the table below.
|Total Length||15.71 meters|
|Total Height||4.41 meters|
|Fuel capacity||8,278 kg|
|Maximum speed||Mach 1.6|
|Cost Per Unit||$110 million|
3. Sukhoi Su-57
Sukhoi Su-57 is a Russian fifth-generation, single-seater, double-engined, multirole stealth aircraft. It is also known as Felon. It was introduced in 2020 in the Russian Army. Sukhoi Su-57 is known for its high-tech avionics and super-maneuverability.
One more interesting feature of the Sukhoi Su-57 fighter is that it is the world’s first aircraft with side-facing RADARs and front-facing RADARs that can detect other aircraft in flight very early. As of 2020, only 12 Su-57 are built and all of them are for the Russian Air Force.
However, Algeria has also given an order of 14 Su-57 fighters. The maximum operated speed of Su-57 is 2.0 Mach. Sukhoi/HAL FGFA is the main export variant for Indian Air Force which is jointly developed by Sukhoi and Hindustan Aeronautics Limited. It is likely to be introduced in 2022 for export.
|Total Length||20.11 meters|
|Total Height||4.75 meters|
|Fuel capacity||10,300 kg|
|Maximum speed||Mach 2 or 1,320 mph|
|Cost Per Unit||$42 million|
4. Chengdu J-20
Chengdu J-20 is a Chinese fifth-generation, single-seater, double-engined aircraft. Chengdu J-20 is also known as Might Dragon. After F-22 Raptor and F-35 Lightning II, J-20 became the third fifth-generation stealth aircraft in 2017 when it was introduced in the People’s Liberation Army Air Force.
The claimed maximum speed of J-20 is more than 2 Mach. A total of 50 Chengdu J-20 are built and all of them are exclusively owned by the People’s Liberation Army Air Force.
There is also a controversy that the information of the Lockheed Martin F-35 program has been illegally accessed by the Chinese and the J-20 may have been developed based on that information.
|Total Length||20.41 meters|
|Total Height||4.45 meters|
|Fuel capacity||11,345 kg|
|Maximum speed||Mach 2.0|
|Cost Per Unit||$110 million|
5. Northrop Grumman B-2 Spirit
B-2 Spirit also referred to as Stealth Bomber is an American twin-seat fighter designed and developed by Northrop Grumman Corporation. It was first introduced on January 1, 1997, in the United States Air Force.
A total of 21 bombers were built and all of them are owned by the US Air Force. The main advantage of the B-2 Bomber is that it can carry a lot of missiles and other weapons and that too in stealth mode. The cost of production of each fighter was around $737 million when it was first introduced back in 1997.
The B-2 made its heroic debut in the War of Kosovo in 1999 where it destroyed around 33.4 percent of targets in less than two months. The maximum speed of the B-2 bomber is around 0.95 Mach.
|Total Length||21 meters|
|Total Height||5.19 meters|
|Fuel capacity||75,750 kg|
|Maximum speed||Mach 0.95|
|Cost Per Unit||$2 billion|