There are quite a few things our Air Force requires to ensure battlespace dominance in the future. One of those things is low observable or “stealth” technology. That said, we cannot understate this obvious fact: we need another outfit in our closet besides a tuxedo. It’s typically a common-sense conversation for the majority of us, but bears repeating in these strange times for the ever-increasing vision gap between elected officials and the warfighter.

If the U.S. Air Force’s biggest problem is that it is so good at its job that some Americans have come to question its relevance, stealth appears to be suffering a similar fate within the Air Force. In his recent series of articles for War on the Rocks, which challenge the utility of stealth technology for future generations of aircraft, Col. Mike “Starbaby” Pietrucha offers a number of thought-provoking ideas that deserve further discussion. Pietrucha has become an intellectual iconoclast within the U.S. Air Force — of which there are too few — by challenging the wisdom of the F-35 program and other sacred cows.

Don't Put All Your Eggs in the Stealth Basket
An F-35C Lightning II aboard the Mighty Ike during DTII. (Photo by Jonathan Derden)

His three-part assault on stealth technology provides an elementary education on what stealth offers the warfighter. In the first article, Pietrucha argues that an all stealth force is unwise because of the capabilities given up in the name of stealth, as well as the expense associated with the technology. On this fundamental point we agree, because a look at the successes and failures of the Air Force demonstrates that platforms for dedicated missions are often a necessity. In other words, a one size fits all approach has led to high combat losses in the past, which makes a mix of capabilities and approaches the only wise way forward.

In his second article, Pietrucha argues for a reconsideration of the value of low altitude penetration for survivability — a point worth further discussion. We, however, see speed as the most viable alternative to stealth. Given Chinese and Russian work on hypersonic glide vehicles, which are maneuverable kill vehicles that can travel at Mach 5 and greater, there is evidence to support such a view.

The original article can be read in its entirety at War on the Rocks right here.
(Feature photo by Jason Hyatt)