What is the reasoning for telling the public about an aircraft like the f-22 for example.enter image description here

Isn't the point of keeping an aircraft top secret so other countries won't know about this new technology this company came up with? Revealing this kind of technology to the public would allow other countries to know about it and design something better. The f-22 was released to the public in 2005, which gave China a good amount of time to try to design something better called the J-20.(better in certain areas)enter image description here


closed as off-topic by digitgopher, mins, aeroalias, Ralph J, reirab Sep 18 '15 at 3:44

This question appears to be off-topic. The users who voted to close gave this specific reason:

  • "This question does not appear to be about aviation, within the scope defined in the help center." – digitgopher, mins, aeroalias, Ralph J, reirab
If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Security by obscurity is hardly a successful tactic. $\endgroup$ – DaG Sep 18 '15 at 17:47
  • $\begingroup$ Why is this on hold? Sure seems on-topic to me. I vote to re-open. And I say good question, good answers. $\endgroup$ – TomMcW Sep 18 '15 at 18:11
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @TomMcW It's a question about military security, not aviation. The answer would be no different if the question was about a battle tank rather than an aircraft. $\endgroup$ – David Richerby Sep 18 '15 at 18:27
  • $\begingroup$ @David Agreed that the concepts applied do apply to all military secrets, but, man, that seems awfully picky to me. It does reference specific aircraft. If we off-topic this we'd have to off-topic a whole lot of good questions on here. If there was a military SE I'd say it could be migrated but there isn't a more appropriate home for it. $\endgroup$ – TomMcW Sep 18 '15 at 18:38

An aeroplane is a large, highly visible object. Unless you're going to fly it only at night from remote airfields and can guarantee radar invisibility, the world will find out about it sooner or later. (Note that the F-117 Nighthawk is rumoured to have been in service for several years before it became public knowledge, flying under exactly these restrictions)

There will also be large holes in public finance where funds have been used to pay for development, so anyone with an interest in seeing what a government has been up to can find out about such projects from public records (yes - we know that black projects can be hidden, but there is a limit to what one can get away with)

It's also easier to keep really important secrets if they're relatively small. Tell the world you have a bright shiny new aeroplane, with a whizz-bang rocket system, and the world won't look for the fancy gadget on the instrument panel that vaporises enemy jets electronically at a range of 500 miles. (Any resemblance to a real weapon is purely coincidental.)

Of course, anyone with a real interest in this new weapon system, such as a super-power enemy, has a pretty good idea what's going on anyway.

Footnote: The J20 is a Chinese aeroplane, not Japanese.


There are a few reasons you disclose a project like this:

  • Intimidation: You may want your adversaries to know that you have a weapon like this and exactly what its capable of.
  • Tax Payers: To some extent you may want to keep your tax payers happy. While not every citizen pours over the budget of their government, considering what was spent on the F-22 or current F-35 it would be hard to not show people at least a bit of what you are working on for all that money.

Now on a similar note you may not really be concerned about disclosing something like this. Keep in mind they are not disclosing the blueprints or through documentation on how the plane works. Seeing something and knowing what it can do are a far cry from designing and then physically constructing a bird like this. Take the SR-71 for example, it was in many regards not a secret but in the end of the day it was simply faster and more sophisticated than anything anyone threw at it and in its entire service history not a single one was lost and even when the enemy knew how fast it could go they still couldn't build anything to take it down.

  • 2
    $\begingroup$ To add to this, at some point it's just too cumbersome to keep a big project secret. When you have several wings of F-22's with hundreds of pilots being assigned to them, along with thousands of other support troops, keeping that sort of a program secret is a massive undertaking. It might be possible to operate them the way that the F-117's did (early on), only at night & only where they were never visible to the "outside world," but it would be incredibly expensive and would impose severe limitations on how the pilots could train. At some point, the secrecy isn't worth the costs. $\endgroup$ – Ralph J Sep 18 '15 at 2:56

The purpose of an aircraft like the F22 is to make your own people feel good about having the world's best fighter (or so you claim) and to sell it to your allies.

It was never really a secret from a serious superpower enemy.


Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.