Czech Gizmo Claims Stealth-Vision

PARDUBICE, Czech Republic -- Fully extended, it looks like a pea-green cola can on a stick, but it may be the cheap Czech answer to the Pentagon's multibillion-dollar challenge: Who, or what, can see the Stealth bomber?


Its makers say Tamara, an anti-aircraft radar, can.


Truck-mounted or stationary, it's packed for export, it's cheap, and it could save its maker from bankruptcy, if only the westward-looking Czech government would look the other way and allow it to be sold abroad.


Code-named Tamara, this $20 million web of radio sensors and computers can, according to its maker, pinpoint any electronic flying object within a radius of 450 kilometers.


They say it can even detect and identify the United States' multibillion-dollar array of bombers and fighters, nicknamed Stealth for an ability to stay invisible to any radar system.


"The tracking of the target depends on the activity of the target, so that any kind of radiation source is useful for our purpose," retired general Oldrich Barak said at his company's warehouse where several Tamaras sit in wraps.


Barak insists that Tamara, by passively sensing the Stealth's slightest electronic output -- even its radar-jamming equipment -- can see the aircraft.


The Stealth uses sharp angles and special materials to absorb radar signals or reflect them away from detectors. The planes were used to pound Iraqi forces in the 1991 Gulf War.


But defense analysts say that while the Stealth emits signals detectable by the passive Tamara system in peacetime, the stealthing technology covers its emissions to remain invisible when most needed -- during attacks.


"Tamara's a fairly sophisticated piece of equipment," said one Western analyst, "but it's a white elephant."


Barak said he was sure the Stealth could not function without some sort of electronic pulse detectable by Tamara.


The former Soviet Union deployed 15 Tamaras, but Barak says its not clear which of its successor republics have them.