The Daring

A division of the Center
for the Study of Diagonality
in World Culture

Daring Diagonal Virtual Museum
F-117 Nighthawk
US Airforce
Executed by:

Did the Phenomenon of Diagonality create in effect a 20th century zeitgeist, a subconscious state of affairs that allowed for the development of the Lockheed F-117 Nighthawk ground-attack fighter, a plane that used stealth technology to make it nearly invisible to radar? It was designed to have a tiny radar cross section. Contrary to the trend of most planes to be smoothly aerodynamic in profile, the stealth is angular with sharp edges and flat planes.

For certain, the design of this plane was not the result of an aeronautical engineer wanting to design an aircraft expressive of the 20th century’s dominant geometric design motif. However, the question remains as to whether the pervasive use of diagonals in all fields of design since the beginning of the 20th century established a fertile ground of creativity and an unconventional geometry so that angular designs in aircraft could even be considered. Did the Phenomenon of Diagonality create in effect a subconcious license to entertain angularity where aerodynamic curves before then had been the ruling geometry?

A 1964 paper published by a Soviet mathematician titled "Method Edge Waves in the Physical Theory of Diffraction" triggered this innovative approach to stealth technology. However, was it the daring use of diagonals in other fields that paved the way for the next step; the design of a faceted airship in which diagonals occur on every surface plane of the aircraft and even in the jagged profile of the windshield frames? Was there something more than coincidence between the Soviet mathematician’s paper and the flare of designs in many fields using the diagonal motif in the early 1960s? One is inclined to wonder whether there is a more direct (but not intentional) cause-and-effect relationship and not just a coincidence that resulted in the angular design of the F-117 Nighthawk Stealth Bomber.


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