Pages Navigation Menu

SHOWFUN - Show & Fun & More!

China claims to have invented quantum radar that could render entire US stealth fleet obsolete

The Chinese military says it has invented quantum radar, a breakthrough which, if true, would render the hundreds of billions of dollars the United States has invested into stealth technology obsolete. Like the original invention of radar, the advent of modern artillery, or radio communications, quantum radar could fundamentally transform the scope and nature of war.

There’s just one problem — the Chinese probably haven’t invented it, and claims that they have should be met with extreme skepticism.

Conventional radar transmits radio waves and measures the signal returned when those waves bounce off objects. The time between when you transmit a signal and when you detect that it has struck something tells you how far away an object is. The Doppler shift on the returned radar signal tells you how fast it is moving. You can measure the precise location of an object by using a network of detectors to monitor signal intensity from multiple locations at the same time.

Quantum radar would exploit quantum entanglement, the phenomena that occurs when two or more particles are linked, even when separated by a significant amount of physical space. In theory, a radar installation could fire one group of particles towards a target while studying the second group of entangled particles to determine what happened to the first group. The potential advantages of this approach would be enormous, since it would allow for extremely low-energy detection of approaching enemy craft. Unlike conventional radar, which relies on an ability to analyze and detect a sufficiently strong signal return, quantum radar would let us directly observe what happened to a specific group of photons. Since we haven’t invented cloaking devices just yet, this would seem to obviate a great deal of investment in various stealth technologies.

China is claiming to have developed a single-photon radar detection system that can operate at a range of 100km, more than 5x that of a lab-based system developed last year by researchers from the UK, US, and Germany. Research into quantum radar has been ongoing for at least a decade, but there are significant hurdles to be solved. You need a single photon source for a quantum radar to be effective, and the ability of such a device to operate at scale, in the appropriate wavelengths, and at effective ranges are all topics of active research. There is a vast gap between technology we could theoretically build, and technology we have advanced to the point of being practically useful.

China’s official story leaves out all of the pertinent details regarding the nature of the photon source, the size, shape, and nature of the 100km-distant target. There’s also the practical question of whether any country would officially announce this kind of breakthrough at all. While the general development of radar as a method for detecting both aircraft and ships was a known topic of research prior to WW2, specific technological developments became closely guarded secrets once the war began. The fact that China is willing to talk about the achievement, even in vague terms, makes it less likely that the project achieved a meaningful breakthrough.

Leave a Comment

Captcha image