2013/10/25 BUSAN, (Yonhap)
South Korea has developed its first radar-absorbing paint to camouflage its warships, fighter jets and tanks to help them bypass detection, a local university institute said Friday, in its latest efforts to arm the nation's weapons with stealth features.
Korea Maritime and Ocean University's Stealth Technology Center unveiled the "stealth paint" designed to have a low detectability during the International Naval & Defense Industry Exhibition held in the southeastern port city of Busan from Tuesday to Friday.
Stealth technology has been considered one of the key features that raise survivability during wartime, with many countries developing related technologies, designs and materials.
During the exhibition that drew some 1,590 companies from 55 nations and foreign delegations, military officials from such countries as the United States and China, which keep much of their stealth technology highly confidential, have paid keen attention to the radar-absorbing paint, the center's exhibition team said.
The radar-absorbing material can be applied with a spray to make it lighter, durable and cheaper than the current tile- or sheet-type electromagnetic wave absorbers made of an iron mixture, Kim Yong-hwan, the director of the Stealth Technology Center, said.
"This paint greatly decreases warships' visibility on radars to help raise their survivability from missile attacks," the former Navy Captain said, showing an iron sheet coated with the paint that absorbs up to 99 percent of radar waves.
While the paint has recently passed certification in 11 categories by the Korea Testing & Research Institute, it is expected to first be applied in naval weapons systems as South Korea has the world's three biggest shipbuilders.
Daewoo Shipbuilding & Marine Engineering is among the companies that are eyeing the material for their latest Navy destroyers under development, said Hwang Young-woo, the center's vice president.
"It is easy to apply evenly to any surface as it is a spray, saving considerable time compared to other sheets or tiles," Hwang said. "Plus, it's much cheaper than the normal paint."
As the South Korean military has included the development of radar-evading and anti-stealth technology in its long-term defense strategy, Hwang said the center has been developing various types of paints to meet different requirements for the Navy and Air Force, and is consulting with local defense contractors.
The paint for warships needs to withstand corrosion from sea waters, while the material for fighter aircraft must endure the high engine temperature and frictional heat.
The radar-absorbing material is one of the anti-detection techniques to reduce radar cross section (RCS) that are more effective when incorporated with other features, Hwang said, hoping to see a warship designed with flat surfaces reflect the radar directly back for a low profile.
Since radar is the most difficult form of detection to elude, avoidance is generally accomplished by reducing RCS of the object to within the level of background noise.
The U.S. has leading stealth technology already demonstrated in its F-35 and F-22 fighters as well as B-2 stealth bomber. Its Navy recently unveiled the DDG-1000 Zumwalt-class ships with downward-sloping designs optimized for stealth, with plans to deploy three ships to the Pacific.
China is building its own experimental stealth jets, such as the J-20 and J-31, as well as a stealth-detecting radar to counter U.S. stealth jets, with the goal of deploying them in a few years.
"As other advanced countries are developing stealth jets and anti-stealth radars, South Korea should speed up developing technology to counter potential threats in future warfare," Hwang said.
While North Korea reportedly has its own stealth jet that absorbs radar waves, Hwang doubted its capability as the isolated communist country does not produce the required materials.
"It is highly likely that the North is trying to show off with fake materials," he said, noting a report smuggled out of the North by a South Korean Christian group in 2010.