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 Article: Stealth

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PostSubject: Article: Stealth   Article: Stealth I_icon_minitimeSun Mar 01, 2015 12:20 am


Visual detection is almost impossible in space due to its vastness, especially with a decent camouflage pattern. Thus, radiation and heat are used to track objects. A ship that wishes to remain undetected must take several measures to do so, and usually has to undergo special refits to be capable of doing so for more than a few minutes.

The first issue is, of course, radiation. Particle radiation is easy to shield against, and does not pose a concern in modern starships. But EM radiation from the reactor is very difficult to hide, and ships often have to sacrifice power output to lower their radiation signature. In addition, any transmissions can give the ship away. Active methods using EM radiation to track ships (such as RADAR) will be discussed below.

The second way of tracking a ship is heat, and is the primary concern. Against the cold background of space, a ship is a flashing red target. The engines themselves can give not only a ship's position away, but its size, speed, acceleration, heading and class. The most drastic step to reduce heat signature is to go dark; set all systems to low or zero power mode, shut down engines, weapons and shields, and hope you aren't noticed. The problem is that computers can tell even the tiniest of distortions in heat imaging, and even the life support and the heat generated by the bodies of the crew may be enough to set off an alarm. Heatsinks are the only solution to the problem; instead of radiating heat, the ship stores it in cells until the danger has passed and it can be radiated to space, or the cells can be changed at a spaceport.

If, however, the heat goes above a certain level, it could fry the crew. Specially designated stealth ships have been known to remain in stealth for days, or even weeks without radiating their heat, but a regular cruiser will only be able to do so for an hour or two at most.

Another issue with stealth is that other ships are actively trying to detect a hidden vessel. RADAR is the most common form of active scanning, along with its LIDAR and LADAR cousins, and is the main concern when a ship is trying to sneak away from an enemy fleet. Electronic countermeasures are considered the pinnacle of stealth: hiding a ship's heat signature is easy, and so is using RADAR-disruptive coating which has existed since the Cold War, but it is the gargantuan computers that distort and confuse enemy sensors that allow ships to keep their location hidden.
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