April 09, 2005
April 05, 2005
As my sophisticated visitors no doubt are aware, it's a common misconception that the F-117 is "invisible" to radar. Not true. The stealth fighter is not invisible, but its radar cross-section is very small - about 10 to 100 square centimeters according to one website i checked. That's pretty small, but not undetectable if you're looking for it, as i'm sure every radar in Southern California would have been after CTU had discerned the threat to Air Force One. Also, detection should have been easier since the F-117 was flying at a higher altitude to intercept the president's plane.
Next, the show's writers appear to have been confused by the nomenclature. "Fighter" is a broad and pretty misleading term. The F-117 is not designed for air combat. It is more properly called a ground attack aircraft. Last night, Bauer was told that the F-117 was carrying "standard non-nuclear ordnance." According to this site, that would include the following ground attack weapons: "BLU-109B low-level laser-guided bomb, GBU-10 and GBU-27 laser-guided bomb units, Raytheon AGM-65 Maverick and Raytheon AGM-88 HARM air-to-surface missiles."
Since the terrorist pilot stole the aircraft, i doubt it had been modified to carry the type of air-to-air missiles that would be needed to shoot down Air Force One. The HARM is an anti-radar missile, and i would guess it's not capable of hitting a plane in flight. i don't know if it's possible to lock the Maverick onto a plane, but i would guess that it's not a very agile missile even if you could. But the biggest problem i see would be the warhead.
The warhead is in the missile's center section. Either a 125-pound shaped-charge warhead or a 300-pound penetrator warhead can be used. A contact fuse in the nose fires the shaped-charge warhead. The penetrator uses a delayed-fuse, allowing the warhead to penetrate the target with its kinetic energy before firing. The latter is very effective against large, hard targets.See the problem? The missile has to actually hit something before it will go off. That's easy when it's aimed at a building. Not so easy in air-to-air situations. And a shaped charge is designed to penetrate armor, so it's not as effective if it explodes out in the open
Also, a stealth fighter is not invisible to radar if it's emitting its own radar beam. Once the F-117 had locked onto the president's plane, everybody would have known where it was. There should have been a shitload of flares and chaff ejected from Air Force One and all the escorts to decoy the missile. Actually, i think once the bomb doors were opened, they would have detected it.
Of course this is all nit-picking. i still love 24. And we won't know what happened for sure until next week's episode.
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