But can they shoot a stealth fighter out of the sky?
Real or fake news? You decide.
State-run Chinese media is claiming that the People's Liberation Army has been able to track the U.S. Air Force's Lockheed Martin F-22 Raptor stealth fighters over the East China Sea. While the Chinese report might be easily dismissed as propaganda-it is not beyond the realm of possibility. In fact-it's very possible that China can track the Raptor. Stealth is not a cloak of invisibility, after all. Stealth technology simply delays detection and tracking.
(This first appeared in 2016.)
First off, if a Raptor is carrying external fuel tanks-as it often does during "ferry missions"-it is not in a stealth configuration. Moreover, the aircraft is often fitted with a Luneburg lens device on its ventral side during peacetime operations that enhances its cross section on radar.
That being said, even combat-configured F-22s are not invisible to enemy radar, contrary to popular belief. Neither is any other tactical fighter-sized stealth aircraft with empennage surfaces such as tailfins-the F-35, PAK-FA, J-20 or J-31. That's just basic physics.