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Mind-Bending Change to Navy F-35: What Can These Strange Additions Do?

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U.S. stealth aircraft are experimenting with a new mirror-like, metallic coating, and those experiments just left the testing grounds and appeared aboard an aircraft carrier for the first time.

According to a Dec. 2 report from The Drive’s The War Zone military vertical, the mysterious reflective coating was first noticed by aviation watchers in late 2021 and has continued since.

The mirrored covering has now appeared on all models of American stealth tactical jets –the F-22, F-35 and F-117 — leading knowledgeable observers to point to reducing the aircrafts’ infrared signature as the likely military objective.

Most importantly, this new defensive technology might prove to be uniquely advantageous against the rising military threat of China.

All instances of the stealth jets sporting the new mirror-like aesthetic were on or near military testing sites or known testing runs, according to The War Zone.

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However, in a photo released by the Department of Defense on Dec. 1, one F-35C operating aboard the carrier USS Abraham Lincoln off the coast of California was adorned with this flashy new finish.

The F-35C had three distinct stripes of reflective coating on both the inside and outside of its tail wings, as well as stripes on the upper wings, The War Zone noted.

An F-35C Lightning II, assigned to Marine Strike Fighter Squadron 125, prepares to make an arrested landing on the flight deck aboard the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln on Nov. 30. The Abraham Lincoln was performing routine operations in the Pacific Ocean.
An F-35C Lightning II, assigned to Marine Strike Fighter Squadron 125, prepares to make an arrested landing on the flight deck aboard the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln on Nov. 30. The Abraham Lincoln was performing routine operations in the Pacific Ocean. (Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Sonny Escalante / U.S. Navy)

The F-35C of interest is in a squadron known as the “Rough Raiders.” It’s a fleet replenishment squadron for the aircraft, meaning it was there to train the frontline flight units, The Warzone noted.

Will these coatings soon make their way to more U.S. jets?

By placing this new technology on a jet assigned to an aircraft carrier, the Navy can obtain field data in the spheres of air and sea under harsher conditions, the outlet said.

This could signify that the research and development for this technology is in an active phase with the potential for more aircraft to be outfitted for comparative testing.

While the Navy has not publicly stated its purposes for the experiments, observers have marveled at the dramatic transformation of both the F-22 and F-35C as both models were entirely covered in the mirrored skin and captured in photos in January 2022.

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U.S. stealth jets are covered in radar-absorbent material, which is vital to their ability to reduce radar tracking and detection.

However, these stealth-constrained materials do not protect them from infrared search and track systems, which detect heat signatures given by aircraft — even though those same aircraft may remain unseen by radar.

In September 2022, after viewing a video from Chinese state TV, journalists for The War Zone published a piece explaining the technological implications of an easily overlooked detail of a Chinese aircraft carrier.

The video showed what appeared to be an infrared tracking system with 360-degree panoramic abilities that can update the picture around the carrier via data processing by artificial intelligence in near real time.

If China is equipping its aircraft carriers — the backbone of naval power — with infrared tracking systems to see stealth planes, then America’s stealth planes must become even more elusive.

These experiments of new deflection technology are therefore not coincidental but rather are meeting the need of a critical inflection point of global conflict and instability.

In a leaked internal memo obtained by NBC News in January, Air Force Gen. Mike Minihan, head of Air Mobility Command, warned of China, “I hope I am wrong. My gut tells me will fight in 2025.”

Although a Department of Defense official told the outlet, “These comments are not representative of the department’s view on China,” his warning was ominous nonetheless.

So serious was Minihan that in a March memo to the 50,000 personnel in Air Mobility Command, he advised them to “consider their personal affairs and whether a visit should be scheduled with their servicing base legal office to ensure they are legally ready and prepared,” according to NBC News.

Let’s hope the new stealth material will prove effective if the general is right.


This article appeared originally on The Western Journal.

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