I've read that some radars can detect stealth aircraft or aircraft with low radar cross section but are not powerful enough to allow a "weapons" track or allow a missile or another aircraft to lock on to it.

What is the difference between the 2 radar tracks? Is one less accurate in terms of pinpointing the aircraft range by a few meters or kms?

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Not necessarily a matter of power; a low frequency radar may be able to determine that a stealth aircraft is "out there" somewhere, but with such low resolution that its presence is about all that's known - location precision being on the order of counties or small states. More power won't help; higher frequency, thus shorter wavelengths, makes for greater precision, but that's where stealth works best. $\endgroup$
    – Ralph J
    Apr 12, 2021 at 19:10
  • $\begingroup$ @RalphJ -- looks like the above comment could be grounds for a good answer $\endgroup$ Apr 12, 2021 at 20:34
  • $\begingroup$ @quietflyer Actually I think Carlo's answer says everything that needs saying with regard to low frequency radars. Just adding that it's more about frequency than about power isn't much of an answer in & of itself, thus my comment rather than answer. $\endgroup$
    – Ralph J
    Apr 12, 2021 at 21:43

1 Answer 1


Virtually any radar in the world can detect and track a stealth aircraft as well as to provide a “kill chain” to direct and guide weapons at it. The key is at exactly what range they can do this and that’s a function of the radar cross section of the target. Stealth aircraft typically, depending on the bearing and azimuth a radar illuminates them from have an RCS on the order of a BB pellet; a conventional aircraft eg a SU-27 has an RCS around the size of a two story house. Certain kinds of radar sets like low frequency radars can detect stealth aircraft much better than X-band radars can but are inferior for miniaturization or for providing weapons guidance, limiting their effective ranges.

  • $\begingroup$ Depending on material, a BB pellet may be totally invisible for radar 🙃 $\endgroup$
    – Jpe61
    Apr 12, 2021 at 18:08
  • $\begingroup$ The range is also dependent on the size of the radar antenna. The AIM-120 missile radar antenna has to fit in a 7" diameter space. The missile flies to an intercept location data-linked from the shooter's aircraft which has a much larger radar. The missile radar goes active in the final stage at close range. $\endgroup$
    – Gerry
    Apr 12, 2021 at 19:22
  • $\begingroup$ "or for providing weapons guidance". May I know how so. You are able to detect but not point it's location? $\endgroup$
    – Nederealm
    Apr 12, 2021 at 19:36
  • $\begingroup$ So does it mean that virtually any radar that can detect stealth will flag that anomaly in their system, even out of their target range? Some documentaries depict that a normal radar won't flag an alert but behave oblivious to the threat. Please see this video for an example("Why the F-22 Raptor Still Reigns Supreme") youtu.be/jvNN_ehD_0M $\endgroup$
    – Nederealm
    Apr 13, 2021 at 3:24

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