Date: Wed Feb 23 1994 21:33:10 To: All Subj: Stealth Jet POLITICS - As seen on a wire serv

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Date: Wed Feb 23 1994 21:33:10 From: Thomas Yoha To: All Subj: Stealth Jet POLITICS ------------------------------- As seen on a wire service Wednesday, February 23, 1994; Report: New Stealth Joins US Fleet LONDON-5:08 PM (ET) 02/23/94-The US Air Force apparently has developed a new stealth aircraft capable of spying or bombing, an authoritative British defense journal reported Wednesday. Jane's International Defense Review published a drawing of the diamond-shaped plane, which strongly resembles a smaller version of the B-2 stealth bomber. The unidentified aircraft has been seen in flight in several places across the southwestern US and was captured on 2 videotapes, one made near Groom Lake Air Force Base in Nevada, the magazine said in its March issue. The Air Force "is not in a position to comment on the story, one way or another," according to spokesman, Col. Doug Kennet, in Washington. American aviation writer Bill Sweetman, who wrote the report, said he believes the plane is a superior, all-weather successor to the F-117 stealth fighter, the world's first radar-evading warplane. The new aircraft flies at medium or low altitude at over 500 mph, said Clifford Beal, the magazine's features editor who viewed the videotapes. The F-117, conceived in 1978 and first tested in 1981, was the only aircraft to attack heavily defended Baghdad during the Gulf War in 1991. The $46 million jets destroyed more than 40 % of their targets, and were never hit by Iraqi fire. The F-117 was put into service so quickly that some features of conventional fighters were omitted. "Compared with the F-117, the new aircraft would have greater range, all-weather sensors, greater weapons capacity" and perhaps new measures to frustrate advanced radars, Sweetman said. "The F-117 does not have any ability to hit targets that are covered by cloud. This aircraft could very likely do that," he said in an interview. The sketch is based on the assumption that the single-seat, twin-engine aircraft has a wingspan of about 66 feet and is no less than 40 feet at the center line. It probably weighs just over 30 tons fully loaded and could be powered by 2 General Electric F404 engines, Sweetman said. He said the US Air Force acquired 250 F404 engines during the F-117 program. Since 59 F-117s were built, there would be enough extra engines for between 35 and 40 twin-engined aircraft, leaving a 20 % allowance for spares, he said. Observers first assumed the aircraft was designed for reconnaissance, but other sources have identified it as an attack aircraft, Sweetman said. He said it could be both--an attractive proposition when costs are rising and Pentagon budgets are shrinking. Jane's has known about the plane for over a year but waited for "a sufficient body of evidence" before publishing, said Beal, the editor. In addition to the videotapes and eyewitness reports, Beal said there is a continuing Air Force need for stealth aircraft, which have become essential to modern warfare. No more F-117s are being built and only 20 B-2 bombers have been authorized. "The F-117 was always designed as an interim aircraft and it shows. The stealth science has gone much further than the F-117," Beal said. "After the Gulf War, Congress asked the Air Force if they wanted more F-117s because of their success rate, but the Air Force did not request additional F-117s. They were obviously reluctant to build more F-117s, when they could do better," he said. "These are all threads, but if you put them together it makes a strong case that there is a follow-on that they are testing." Earlier this month, CIA Director R. James Woolsey denied the US is building a new high- speed, high-altitude spy plane to replace the SR- 71 Blackbird. But he did not specifically deny that a new generation spy plane was being developed. (From The Associated Press)

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