US Stealth Advantage Will Erode, Study Says

An escalating battle network competition pitting US aircraft against radar-based air defenses in Vietnam became so costly the Air Force moved into a revolutionary new “competitive regime” by fielding stealth technology, a CSBA study found. But, as with all earlier network competition cycles in air combat, the study by retired submariner Bryan Clark and retired Air Force weapons system officer John Stillion warned that new technologies will erode the stealth advantage. The study found that in attempting to reduce the heavy loss of bombers or strike aircraft in World War II and then in Vietnam, the US used more planes to counter the strengthening air defenses than to drop bombs. In the 1972 Linebacker II offensive in Vietnam, 770 aircraft were used to counter North Vietnamese radar, surface-to-air missiles, and MiG fighters to protect 206 B-52s. But 15 bombers were lost and five heavily damaged. That experience, plus the heavy loss of Israeli aircraft to Arab SAMs in the 1973 “Yom Kippur” war, led to the fielding of stealth technology, first displayed by F-117s in Desert Storm . But that US advantage is fading as Russia and China develop stealth aircraft and technologies that can counter stealth.