Stealth is not invisibility. Rather, stealth gives the F-35 the ability to elude or greatly complicate an enemy’s ability to find and destroy an aircraft using a combination of design, tactics and technology.
The stealth capabilities in the F-35 are unprecedented in military aviation. An integrated airframe design, advanced materials and other features maximize the F-35's stealth features. Extensive analysis and flight test of the survivability of the F-35 with its combination of stealth, advanced sensors, data fusion, sophisticated countermeasures, and electronic attack demonstrate conclusively its superior advantages over legacy aircraft.
True stealth cannot be retrofitted.
The F-35 achieves low observable (LO) stealth performance through its fundamental design. The F-35’s external shape, internal carriage of weapons and fuel, embedded mission systems sensors, and state of the art manufacturing processes all contribute to the F-35’s unique stealth performance.
Stealth is the foundation for survivability and lethality.
In general, stealth is the ability to evade detection by radar, infrared sensors or emission interception. Stealth provides greater survivability and access, allowing aircraft to operate in contested areas, including anti-access/area denial environments that legacy fighters simply cannot penetrate or evade. U.S. Air Force leadership considers advanced stealth technology “the price of admission” into modern warfare.
“In the near term, the stealth technology on our 5th Generation platforms, the F-22 and F-35, is the price of admission into the fight. The lethal envelope of advanced air-defense systems continues to grow against our 4th Generation aircraft.”
—General Mark Welsh, Former Chief of Staff, U.S. Air Force