It seems almost every post on ATS that deals with plasma stealth technology stems from questions someone has after browsing to Venik's
" website. Venik has done a remarkable job of accumulating a plethera of good information and
has one of the best
aviation/aerospace reference material websites on the web.
It is my hope that this will not turn into the usual bashing of Russian or American technology, but rather generate curiosity and investigation. It is
obvious that both sides have good reasons to follow the paths that they have chosen.
Plasma: What is it?
Plasma is the most common state of matter in the universe, it can carry electric currents, neutral particles and magnetic fields that exhibit
Various examples of plasma around us are flames, lightning, neon lights, the Aurora Borealis, the corona around the sun, etc.
Plasma has been described as a being more closely related to fluids by some physicists and related to gases by others. What it actually resembles
depends mostly on the density/temperature and energy of the matter.
Plasma technology has been a part of aerospace research for decades. Ever since it was discovered that there were communications black outs when space
capsules were re-entering the atmosphere it has been known that plasma negatively affected RF signals.
The Basics: Plasma Stealth theory
There are 3 ways that plasma stealth functions.
1. Plasma aids in the absorption of the radar signals. This occurs when electromagnetic waves (radar) encounter charged particles causing the wave's
energy to be transferred to the charged particles, thus no reflection back to the radar source.
2. Electromagnetic waves have a tendency to bend around the plasma field thus passing around the aircraft. Most aerospace radar specialists will tell
you that this effect is at best minimal in decreasing Radar Cross Section (RCS).
3. Plasma can disturb electromagnetic waves to the point of transforming them to differing frequencies scattered all across the RF spectrum, rendering
the electromagnetic waves that encounter the plasma virtually useless.
Background: The 1999 ITAR-TASS Claim
In January of 1999 Nicolai Novichkov of ITAR-TASS conducted an interview with Anatoliy Korteev, the director of the Russian Scientific Academy. In
this interview it was revealed that Russian scientists had made significant strides in stealth techniques involving plasma. The Russian scientist
outlined his perspective on the differences between the American and Russian approach to stealth. These differences being that American stealth is
based on Radar Absorbent Material (RAM) and Radar Absorbent Structure (RAS)... This process as scientist Anatoliy Korteev stated is expensive to
develop as well as to deploy and takes away from the overall manueverability of the airframe.
The article went on to discuss the method in which the plasma would protect the airframe from being observed by radar;
"If an object is surrounded by a cloud of plasma, several phenomenas are observed when the cloud interacts with electromagnetic waves radiated by
For clarification, this article stated that the entire airframe of the plane would have to be engulfed in the plasma cloud in order for this stealth
technique to be effective.
And finally the article states that the technology was already in it's 3rd generation, the device supposedly weighed approximately 100 kilograms,
required only a "few tens of kilowatts" of power, and the development of the 3rd generation system had allowed clearance of the 1st and 2nd
generation versions for export.
(Link to TASS article transcript
Russian Plasma Stealth: How would it work?
Exactly how the Russian plasma stealth generator touted by TASS in 1999 would work is still undisclosed
There are a variety of possibilities of how it could have operated, including the following:
1. An electromagnetic field is generated - the downside however, is that such a field would be detectable by electronic sensors.
2. A corona source that continuous breaks down or a pulsing tesla coil - again however, this would produce an EM field and thus be detectable.
3. A plasma laser firing out in front of the aircraft.
A common problem with each of these possibilities is that they require a lot of space, are heavy and consume a large amount of power.
Ok, enough of the 1999 claim - Let's move forward to 2003...
Russian Plasma Stealth: Questions from experts...
Investigating the subject of Russian plasma stealth as stated in the 1999 TASS article
elicited many skeptical responses from the physicists,
aerospace engineers and military specialists whom I interviewed.
As stated in the introduction of this article, it is not out of nationalistic American pride that these experts in the field question the validity of
the Russian claim, nor is it closed mindedness of the technology itself (which is very viable)... it's the methodologies by which the Russian
researchers claim to accomplish this.
* One specialist in the area of military arms sales for a US intelligence agency pointed out that it was 5 1/2 years ago in January 1999 that the Tass
News Agency's article announced this technology was to be exported and as of yet there is no such product for sale on the world's arms markets.
* An aerospace engineer for a leading US fighter manufacturer questioned how this ionized gas envelope would interact with the airflow over the
control surfaces at flight speed. Also he wondered if sharp, angled manuevering would shear off the ionization thus exposing the aircraft to enemy
* A physicist from Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory had questions about how the aircraft's onboard systems would interact with a surrounding
plasma field. For instance in order for the plasma field to be effective it would have to to be so powerful that the aircraft itself would have to be
shielded from it's own stealth system. Would this mean that they would have to employ something similar to a Faraday cage? If so, then how much would
this additional weight negatively affect the performance and manueverability of a fighter aircraft?
* A plasma physicist working on a DoD project pondered how the Russian researchers handled the issue of photon emissions - visual glowing from plasma
sources can be tracked using CCD sensors. Additional she stated that an ion field is detectable and it would seem that plasma stealth would likewise
be detectable... she was also quick to point out that anything that is detectable can be shot down.
The State of Russian Plasma Stealth today: There is no Russian Plasma Cloud Stealth
In 2003 the Institute for Theoretical and Applied Electromagnetics (ITAE) at the Russian Academy of Sciences in Moscow flight tested a
"plasma-controlled screen" for the Su-35's remarkably large 0.889 meter radar dish... (which shows up like sore thumb on an air defense radar).
This "plasma screen" is mounted in front of the radar dish and behind the nose-cone of the fighter jet. It is supposedly similar to a plasma TV
screen made up of cells or rastars filled with neon, xenon or some other inert gas which is excited by an electrical current, and when there is no
current going to the unit it is completely transparent to the Su-35's radar.
In demonstration videos this Plasma Controlled Screen is seen as a luminous panel in front of the dish. It is said to absorb some of the opponent's
radar signal, scattering much of the remainder in all different directions while at the same time transforming the scattered signals to frequencies
all over the RF spectrum.
Word from the ITAE is that they have not developed a system for a whole airframe like the 1999 claim in Tass, which would use plasma-generating
antennas to ionize the air flowing over the aircraft – in fact, ITAE researchers expressed the view that application of the 1999 stealth method would
be nearly impossible unless applied to a high-altitude, relatively slow aircraft, this is because the airstream would dissipate the plasma faster than
it could be generated. (Janes Defense Weekly, 2003 - [Original not available online] -
Transcript of original article
So there it is, the same group of scientists (ITAE) who in 1999 stated via ITAR-TASS news agency that they had a 100kg plasma stealth unit in it's
3rd generation, 4 years later tell Bill Sweetman of Janes Defense Weekly the system was problematic due to the dissipation of the plasma field was too
rapid for a fast flying fighter aircraft.
The ITAE scientist now have a much more practical system which is greeted with absolutely no skepticism from military and academic R&D specialists in
the US and Great Britain.
US Stealth: Is Plasma a Consideration?
I have seen posts here on ATS and around the internet where people have anxiously expressed a concern that the US is not embracing this technology.
Although there is certainly a difference in the schools of thought surrounding stealth between Russia and the US, it is apparent both countries have
dabbled in the other's stealthy techniques.
The Russians for instance are incorporating radar absorbing composites (RAM) as well as limited radar deflecting structural design (RAS) into their
newest fighter designs... and then there is the Russian Tu-180, a flying wing bomber similar to the B-2 which a spokesman for Tupolev claims was
flying before the US's B-2.
But what of US interest in plasma stealth?
We know the research is there...
In a 1998 article entitled "Are Plasmas Already Out There?", Janes Defense Weekly makes the suggestion that the US has plasma stealth technology
already and that it may go hand in hand with electrostatic technology that decreases drag on aircraft.
es Defense Weekly, on June 17, 1998 - page 8
Janes also referred to a 1968 "Aviation Week" article which said the US had been researching the phenomenon related to plasma and aeronautics - this
was a non-specific reference to Northrop's 1968 tech paper titled "Electroaerodynamics in Supersonic Flow".
What is known about American military research on plasma stealth seems to revolve around cold-plasma projects. Rob Barker, Program Manager for plasma
research at the USAF's Scientific Research Office in Virginia has been funding low-temperature plasma research by a specialist named
Dr. Mounir Laroussi
These current US Military/USAF research projects concerning “cold plasma” (most of which are classified) involve concepts using the air temperature
ionized gas as; 1. a decontaminant for biological warfare, 2. protective shielding around sensitive electronic devices, 3. shielding from direct
energy weapons (specifically microwave weapons) and as 4. a radar absorbing stealth technique.
While writing this post, I interviewed some pretty impressive individuals in their respective fields, some of whom I really did not think I would get
an audience with at all. I also had a rare opportunity to speak with an aerospace engineer for the Russian Aircraft Corporation (MiG) who was here in
the US with a group touring a few major American aerospace companies.
The engineer from Russia did not consider the technology of a plasma cloud surrounding an aircraft to be ready to exit R&D and go into deployment for
many years to come - and suggested that there are more expedient methods, not nearly as radical nor as potentially stealthy but are closer to
He had some interesting things to say - some of which included his compelling and well thought-out belief that the US also has plasma stealth... but
that is for another post.
I will end this post with a quote by this Russian engineer named Vladimir...
"In Russia we are realists... we develop air defense that we hope can see a B-2, F-117 or F-22 in time to get off a shot, but there are many unknowns
concerning these aircraft, including the F-117 simply because it has been upgraded since one was shot down over the Balkans, so we don't rest - we
keep on improving.
"I tell you this not as one who is marketing a product, but as one who considers that his country's survival rests on it's ability to counter the
US's capabilities... particularly in a technical sense. Again I stress not to counter the US... just it's capabilities. We Russians do not consider
the US an enemy, but it would be irresponsible on our part to not be vigilant with the convolluted geopolitics in today's world."
"Theoretical Principles of Plasma Physics and Atomic Physics
"The Radar Game: Understanding Stealth and Aircraft Survivability", Rebecca Grant, 1998
"Naval Research Laboratory: Plasma Formulary
"; NRL Plasma Physics
With gratitude I'd like to acknowledge the following for guidance and input:
*** Special thanks to "Brett" @ Lockheed-Martin; Palmdale, CA
*** Special thanks to "Jeni" @ Raytheon; Langley, VA
*** Special thanks to "David" @ Lawrence Livermore National Laboratories; Livermore, CA
*** Special thanks to "Robert" @ a US intelligence agency; Langley, VA
*** Special thanks to "Vladimir" @ Russian Aircraft Corporation, (MiG); Moscow, Russia
*** Special thanks to "Zion Mainframe" @ "Above Top Secret.com" & "Air-Attack.Com" for link to TASS article
*** Special thanks to "Bios" @ "Above Top Secret.com" for research assistance
[edit on 21-10-2004 by intelgurl]