The U.S. Air Force’s military transport chief is tapping Silicon Valley, the defense industry and the Pentagon’s new innovation office in search of electronic cloaking technologies out of “Star Trek” to shrink the profiles of aerial tankers on enemy radar.
“I’ve got airplanes with big fat bodies and long wings,” General Carlton Everhart, head of the Air Mobility Command, said Tuesday in an interview at Bloomberg’s headquarters in New York. “I’ve got first-generation tankers refueling fifth-gen fighters. The enemy doesn’t have to look for the fighter — he just has to look for me.”
Everhart said he’s spoken with technology companies, defense contractors, the Defense Advanced Research Project Agency and military service laboratories on an idea still in its earliest stage: Retrofitting tankers as old as the 1950s-era KC-135 and as new as Boeing Co.’s KC-46 with technology to alter the plane’s radar image, or waveform, so it appears to be “either in a different location in the air” or “reduced or disappears altogether: Now you see me, now you don’t.”
“I asked industry for a cloaking device and they all laughed — they said you’ve been watching too much” science fiction. “I said, ‘Listen to me — this is what I want — something that would be able to change the waveform.”’
“I’m piggybacking off industry,” Everhart said “If I put it in the military acquisition system, it would be 50 years before I get it out because of the regulations that we have.”