I've always wondered about the fetish with stealth. Does a fighter even need stealth?
Not quite a fetish when every single new fighter program is looking to include stealth. Russia with the Su-57, China with the J-20 and FC-31, Germany, France and Spain with the FCAS, UK and Italy with the Tempest, India with the AMCA, Turkey with the TF-X, South Korea with the KF-X, Japan with the F-3 and of course the US with the F-22, F-35 and NGAD/F/A-XX.
Stealth provides a significant advantage on the battlefield across air, land and sea and nations across the globe spend billions trying to reduce their signatures across the EM spectrum.
If you're in a fighter, aren't you looking for a fight in the first place? Its different than an attack plane.
In a fighter you are most likely looking for a fight but what you are really looking for an unfair
fight. Just like flying out of the sun during the Second World War you want to create a situation where you have the most certainty of winning and stealth is a significant factor in creating that situation. By having low EM observability you can better dictate the terms of the engagement by positioning yourself to advantage and your opponents to a disadvantage. Whether that is spatial position or not launching your missiles until they are within their no escape zone etc makes a big difference to forcing your opponent defensive and subsequently winning the engagement.
And once you turn on the radar and begin emitting, doesn't that exponentially increase your chances of being detected and tracked, even with a so called low probability of intercept radar? And once you start shooting, doesn't that also give up the game of stealth?
Fighter radars have come a long way and modern AESA systems have some very impressive capabilities including LPI. In a fight with a modern stealth aircraft you might be able to detect the occasional transmission but likely may not be able to determine direction. Additionally within for example a flight of F-22 or F-35 they have LPI directional data-links that allow them to share sensor information. You could have one F-22/F-35 blaring away with its radar while the rest of the flight are on silent but have the radar picture transmitted to all the other aircraft. The sensor fusion across the platforms allows all tofuze everything each aircraft is seeing across each of their sensor systems. You can see the tactical advantages that could provide noting not all stealth aircraft are created equal…
With modern active radar guided missiles the seeker head won't activate until it is within its detection range and commanded to by the aircraft. That translates to the missile being detected potentially 60 seconds after launch and the launch aircraft can therefore spatially separate itself from the launch bearing.