Russia’s Roselectronics claims to have made a breakthrough in low observable materials, with a composite capable of absorbing a wide range of radar frequencies.
The company, a unit of state arms manufacturer Rostec, says the lightweight material is composed of glass fibres with a metal core, and is suitable for the manufacture of aircraft parts.
“In the process of creating a radio-absorbing material, several layers of fiberglass were connected to each other,” says Rostec.
“It is based on thin threads with a metal core in glass insulation. Due to its exceptional characteristics, the new material absorbs up to 95% of the incident electromagnetic radiation of radars and significantly complicates the detection of an air object using radar equipment.”
Rostec adds existing stealth coatings require regular restoration, while its new material requires no maintenance.
In the West, early low-observable coatings for types such as the Lockheed Martin F-117 and Northrop Grumman B-2 are understood to require significant maintenance work.
The low-observable skin of the Lockheed F-35, however, is understood to require less maintenance to retain its low-observable qualities. This is a particular consideration given spartan operating environments such as aircraft carriers, from where the short take-off and vertical landing F-35B and carrier capable F-35C operate.
To highlight the durability of the F-35’s low-observable skin, Lockheed’s F-35 factory in Fort Worth, Texas has a doormat made from the jet’s low-observable skin.
Russian aircraft have tended to lag their US counterparts in stealth technology. Russia has developed just one stealth fighter, the Sukhoi Su-57, which is in production for the Russian air force.
In late 2022 Russian news agency TASS said the Russian air force will have 22 Su-57s in service by late 2024. The total fleet is planned to reach 76 tail numbers by 2028.
Rostec makes no mention of whether the new radar absorbent material will be incorporated into the Su-57, or into the developmental Su-75 Checkmate.
In early 2023, UK Defence Intelligence said that Moscow had “almost certainly” used the Su-57 in operations against Ukraine since at least June 2022.
It contended, however, that Moscow used the aircraft mainly for long-range, stand-off strikes, as opposed to deep, penetrating missions that are the forte of US stealth aircraft.
“Russia is highly likely prioritising avoiding the reputational damage, reduced export prospects, and the compromise of sensitive technology which would come from any loss of [an Su-57] over Ukraine,” said the agency.