F-117 Nighthawk
Overview
 

The Lockheed F-117 Nighthawk was a single-seat, twin-engine
Twinjet
A twinjet or twin jet is a jet aircraft powered by two engines. Such configuration of an aircraft is the most popular today for commercial airliners, for fighters, and many other kinds, because while offering safety from a single engine failure, it is also acceptably fuel-efficient.-Aircraft...

 stealth ground-attack aircraft formerly operated by the United States Air Force
United States Air Force
The United States Air Force is the aerial warfare service branch of the United States Armed Forces and one of the American uniformed services. Initially part of the United States Army, the USAF was formed as a separate branch of the military on September 18, 1947 under the National Security Act of...

 (USAF). The F-117A's first flight
Maiden flight
The maiden flight of an aircraft is the first occasion on which an aircraft leaves the ground of its own accord. This is similar to a ship's maiden voyage....

 was in 1981, and it achieved initial operating capability
Initial operating capability
Initial operating capability or Initial operational capability is the state achieved when a capability is available in its minimum usefully deployable form. The term is often used in government or military procurement....

 status in October 1983. The F-117A was "acknowledged" and revealed to the world in November 1988.

A product of Lockheed Skunk Works
Skunk works
Skunk Works is an official alias for Lockheed Martin’s Advanced Development Programs , formerly called Lockheed Advanced Development Projects. Skunk Works is responsible for a number of famous aircraft designs, including the U-2, the SR-71 Blackbird, the F-117 Nighthawk, and the F-22 Raptor...

 and a development of the Have Blue
Lockheed Have Blue
Lockheed Have Blue was the code name for Lockheed's "proof of concept" that preceded the F-117 Nighthawk production stealth aircraft. Have Blue was designed by Lockheed's Skunk Works division, and tested at Groom Lake, Nevada...

technology demonstrator, it became the first operational aircraft initially designed around stealth technology
Stealth technology
Stealth technology also termed LO technology is a sub-discipline of military tactics and passive electronic countermeasures, which cover a range of techniques used with personnel, aircraft, ships, submarines, and missiles, to make them less visible to radar, infrared, sonar and other detection...

.
Encyclopedia

The Lockheed F-117 Nighthawk was a single-seat, twin-engine
Twinjet
A twinjet or twin jet is a jet aircraft powered by two engines. Such configuration of an aircraft is the most popular today for commercial airliners, for fighters, and many other kinds, because while offering safety from a single engine failure, it is also acceptably fuel-efficient.-Aircraft...

 stealth ground-attack aircraft formerly operated by the United States Air Force
United States Air Force
The United States Air Force is the aerial warfare service branch of the United States Armed Forces and one of the American uniformed services. Initially part of the United States Army, the USAF was formed as a separate branch of the military on September 18, 1947 under the National Security Act of...

 (USAF). The F-117A's first flight
Maiden flight
The maiden flight of an aircraft is the first occasion on which an aircraft leaves the ground of its own accord. This is similar to a ship's maiden voyage....

 was in 1981, and it achieved initial operating capability
Initial operating capability
Initial operating capability or Initial operational capability is the state achieved when a capability is available in its minimum usefully deployable form. The term is often used in government or military procurement....

 status in October 1983. The F-117A was "acknowledged" and revealed to the world in November 1988.

A product of Lockheed Skunk Works
Skunk works
Skunk Works is an official alias for Lockheed Martin’s Advanced Development Programs , formerly called Lockheed Advanced Development Projects. Skunk Works is responsible for a number of famous aircraft designs, including the U-2, the SR-71 Blackbird, the F-117 Nighthawk, and the F-22 Raptor...

 and a development of the Have Blue
Lockheed Have Blue
Lockheed Have Blue was the code name for Lockheed's "proof of concept" that preceded the F-117 Nighthawk production stealth aircraft. Have Blue was designed by Lockheed's Skunk Works division, and tested at Groom Lake, Nevada...

technology demonstrator, it became the first operational aircraft initially designed around stealth technology
Stealth technology
Stealth technology also termed LO technology is a sub-discipline of military tactics and passive electronic countermeasures, which cover a range of techniques used with personnel, aircraft, ships, submarines, and missiles, to make them less visible to radar, infrared, sonar and other detection...

. The F-117A was widely publicized during the Persian Gulf War
Gulf War
The Persian Gulf War , commonly referred to as simply the Gulf War, was a war waged by a U.N.-authorized coalition force from 34 nations led by the United States, against Iraq in response to Iraq's invasion and annexation of Kuwait.The war is also known under other names, such as the First Gulf...

 of 1991. It was commonly called the "Stealth Fighter" although it was a ground-attack aircraft, making its F-designation misleading.

The Air Force retired the F-117 on 22 April 2008, primarily due to the fielding of the F-22 Raptor and the impending introduction of the F-35 Lightning II. Sixty-four F-117s were built, 59 of which were production versions with five demonstrators/prototypes.

Background and Have Blue

In 1964, Pyotr Ya. Ufimtsev, a Soviet
Soviet Union
The Soviet Union , officially the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics , was a constitutionally socialist state that existed in Eurasia between 1922 and 1991....

 mathematician, published a seminal paper titled Method of Edge Waves in the Physical Theory of Diffraction in the journal of the Moscow Institute for Radio Engineering, in which he showed that the strength of a radar
Radar
Radar is an object-detection system which uses radio waves to determine the range, altitude, direction, or speed of objects. It can be used to detect aircraft, ships, spacecraft, guided missiles, motor vehicles, weather formations, and terrain. The radar dish or antenna transmits pulses of radio...

 return is related to the edge configuration of an object, not its size. Ufimtsev was extending theoretical work published by the German physicist Arnold Sommerfeld
Arnold Sommerfeld
Arnold Johannes Wilhelm Sommerfeld was a German theoretical physicist who pioneered developments in atomic and quantum physics, and also educated and groomed a large number of students for the new era of theoretical physics...

. Ufimtsev demonstrated that he could calculate the radar cross-section across a wing's surface and along its edge. The obvious conclusion was that even a large aircraft could be made stealthy by exploiting this principle. However, the airplane's design would make it aerodynamically unstable, and the state of computer technology in the early 1960s could not provide the kinds of flight computers which allow aircraft such as the F-117, and B-2 Spirit to stay airborne. However, by the 1970s, when a Lockheed analyst reviewing foreign literature found Ufimtsev's paper, computers and software had advanced significantly, and the stage was set for the development of a stealthy airplane.
The F-117 was born after combat experience in the Vietnam War
Vietnam War
The Vietnam War was a Cold War-era military conflict that occurred in Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia from 1 November 1955 to the fall of Saigon on 30 April 1975. This war followed the First Indochina War and was fought between North Vietnam, supported by its communist allies, and the government of...

 when increasingly sophisticated Soviet surface-to-air missile
Surface-to-air missile
A surface-to-air missile or ground-to-air missile is a missile designed to be launched from the ground to destroy aircraft or other missiles...

s (SAMs) downed heavy bombers. It was a black project
Black project
In the United States and United Kingdom, a black project is in the vernacular a classified military/defense project, unacknowledged publicly by the government, military personnel, and defense contractors. Examples of U.S...

, an ultra-secret program for much of its life, until the late 1980s. The project began in 1975 with a model called the "Hopeless Diamond" (a wordplay on the Hope Diamond
Hope Diamond
The Hope Diamond, also known as "Le bleu de France" or "Le Bijou du Roi", is a large, , deep-blue diamond, now housed in the Smithsonian Natural History Museum in Washington, D.C. It is blue to the naked eye because of trace amounts of boron within its crystal structure, but exhibits red...

 due to its appearance). The following year, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency issued Lockheed Skunk Works a contract to build and test two Stealth Strike Fighters, under the code name "Have Blue
Lockheed Have Blue
Lockheed Have Blue was the code name for Lockheed's "proof of concept" that preceded the F-117 Nighthawk production stealth aircraft. Have Blue was designed by Lockheed's Skunk Works division, and tested at Groom Lake, Nevada...

". These subscale aircraft incorporated jet engines of the Northrop T-38A, fly-by-wire
Fly-by-wire
Fly-by-wire is a system that replaces the conventional manual flight controls of an aircraft with an electronic interface. The movements of flight controls are converted to electronic signals transmitted by wires , and flight control computers determine how to move the actuators at each control...

 systems of the F-16, landing gear of the A-10, and environmental systems
Built environment
The term built environment refers to the human-made surroundings that provide the setting for human activity, ranging in scale from personal shelter and buildings to neighborhoods and cities that can often include their supporting infrastructure, such as water supply or energy networks.The built...

 of the C-130. By bringing together existing technology and components, Lockheed built two demonstrators under budget, at $35 million for both aircraft, and in record time.

The maiden flight
Maiden flight
The maiden flight of an aircraft is the first occasion on which an aircraft leaves the ground of its own accord. This is similar to a ship's maiden voyage....

 of the demonstrators occurred on 1 December 1977. Although both aircraft were lost during the demonstration program, test data proved positive. The success of Have Blue led the government to increase funding for stealth technology
Stealth technology
Stealth technology also termed LO technology is a sub-discipline of military tactics and passive electronic countermeasures, which cover a range of techniques used with personnel, aircraft, ships, submarines, and missiles, to make them less visible to radar, infrared, sonar and other detection...

. Much of that increase was allocated towards the production of an operational stealth aircraft, the Lockheed F-117A, under the program code name "Senior Trend".

Senior Trend

The decision to produce the F-117A was made on 1 November 1978, and a contract was awarded to Lockheed Advanced Development Projects, popularly known as the Skunk Works
Skunk works
Skunk Works is an official alias for Lockheed Martin’s Advanced Development Programs , formerly called Lockheed Advanced Development Projects. Skunk Works is responsible for a number of famous aircraft designs, including the U-2, the SR-71 Blackbird, the F-117 Nighthawk, and the F-22 Raptor...

, in Burbank
Burbank, California
Burbank is a city in Los Angeles County in Southern California, United States, north of downtown Los Angeles. The estimated population in 2010 was 103,340....

, California. The program was led by Ben Rich
Ben Rich
Benjamin Robert Rich was the second director of Lockheed's Skunk Works from 1975 to 1991, succeeding its founder, Kelly Johnson. Regarded as the "father of stealth," Ben Rich was responsible for leading the development of the F-117, the first production stealth aircraft...

, who called on Bill Schroeder, a Lockheed mathematician, and Denys Overholser, a computer scientist, to exploit Ufimtsev's work. The three designed a computer program called "Echo", which made it possible to design an airplane with flat panels, called facets, which were arranged so as to scatter over 99% of a radar's signal energy "painting" the aircraft.

The first YF-117A, serial number 79-0780, made its maiden flight from Groom Lake
Area 51
Area 51 is a military base, and a remote detachment of Edwards Air Force Base. It is located in the southern portion of Nevada in the western United States, 83 miles north-northwest of downtown Las Vegas. Situated at its center, on the southern shore of Groom Lake, is a large military airfield...

, Nevada on 18 June 1981, only 31 months after the full-scale development decision. The first production F-117A was delivered in 1982, and operational capability was achieved in October 1983. The Air Force denied the existence of the aircraft until 1988, when a grainy photograph was released to the public. In April 1990 two were flown into Nellis Air Force Base
Nellis Air Force Base
Nellis Air Force Base is a United States Air Force Base, located approximately northeast of Las Vegas, Nevada. It is under the jurisdiction of Air Combat Command .-Overview:...

, Nevada, arriving during daylight and visible to a crowd of tens of thousands. Five Full Scale Development (FSD) aircraft were built, designated "YF-117A". The last of 59 production F-117s were delivered on 3 July 1990.
As the Air Force has stated, "Streamlined management by Aeronautical Systems Center, Wright-Patterson AFB, Ohio
Ohio
Ohio is a Midwestern state in the United States. The 34th largest state by area in the U.S.,it is the 7th‑most populous with over 11.5 million residents, containing several major American cities and seven metropolitan areas with populations of 500,000 or more.The state's capital is Columbus...

, combined breakthrough stealth technology with concurrent development and production to rapidly field the aircraft... The F-117A program demonstrates that a stealth aircraft can be designed for reliability and maintainability." The aircraft maintenance statistics are comparable to other tactical fighters of similar complexity. Logistically supported by Sacramento Air Logistics Center, McClellan AFB, California, the F-117A was kept at the forefront of technology through a planned weapon system improvement program located at USAF Plant 42
Plant 42
Air Force Plant 42 is a federally owned military aerospace facility under the control of the Air Force Material Command in Palmdale, California...

 at Palmdale
Palmdale, California
Palmdale is a city located in the center of northern Los Angeles County, California, United States.Palmdale was the first community within the Antelope Valley to incorporate as a city on August 24, 1962; 47 years later, voters approved creating a charter city in November, 2009. Palmdale is...

, California.

Designation

The operational aircraft had the official designation of "F-117A". Most modern U.S. military aircraft use post-1962 designations
1962 United States Tri-Service aircraft designation system
The 1962 United States Tri-Service aircraft designation system is a unified designation system introduced by the United States Department of Defense on 18 September 1962 for all the U.S. military aircraft. Prior to this date, each armed service used their own nomenclature system...

 in which the designation "F" is usually an air-to-air fighter
Fighter aircraft
A fighter aircraft is a military aircraft designed primarily for air-to-air combat with other aircraft, as opposed to a bomber, which is designed primarily to attack ground targets...

, "B" is usually a bomber
Bomber
A bomber is a military aircraft designed to attack ground and sea targets, by dropping bombs on them, or – in recent years – by launching cruise missiles at them.-Classifications of bombers:...

, "A" is usually a ground-attack aircraft, etc. (Examples include the F-15, the B-2, and the A-6.) The F-117 is primarily a ground-attack aircraft so its "F" designation is inconsistent with the DoD
United States Department of Defense
The United States Department of Defense is the U.S...

 system, but it is an inconsistency that has been repeatedly employed by the U.S. Air Force with several of its ground attack aircraft since the late 1950s, e.g., F-105, F-111, etc.

The designation "F-117" seems to indicate that it was given an official designation prior to the 1962 U.S. Tri-Service Aircraft Designation System and could be considered numerically to be a part of the earlier "Century series" of fighters. The assumption prior to the revealing of the aircraft to the public was that it would likely receive the designation F-19 as that number had not been used. However there were no other aircraft to receive a "100" series number following the F-111. Soviet fighters obtained by the United States via various means under the Constant Peg program were given F-series numbers for their evaluation by U.S. pilots, and with the advent of the Teen Series
Teen Series
The Teen Series is a popular name for a group of US combat aircraft. The name stems from a series of US supersonic jet fighters built for the United States Air Force and the United States Navy during the late 20th century. The designations system was the 1962 United States Tri-Service aircraft...

 fighters, most often Century Series
Century series
The Century Series is a popular name for a group of US fighter aircraft representing models designated between F-100 and F-106 which went into full production...

 designations.

As with other exotic military aircraft types flying in the southern Nevada area, such as captured fighters, an arbitrary radio call of "117" was assigned. This same radio call had been used by the enigmatic 4477th Test and Evaluation Squadron
4477th Test and Evaluation Squadron
The 4477th Test and Evaluation Squadron was a squadron in the United States Air Force under the command of the Tactical Air Command. The product of Project Constant Peg, the unit was created to train USAF pilots and weapon systems officers, and USN and USMC naval aviators to better fight the...

, also known as the "Red Hats" or "Red Eagles", that often had flown expatriated MiGs in the area, but there was no relationship to the call and the formal F-19
F-19
F-19 is a designation for a hypothetical United States fighter aircraft that has never been officially acknowledged, and has engendered much speculation that it might refer to a type of aircraft whose existence is still classified.-History:...

 designation then being considered by the Air Force. Apparently, use of the "117" radio call became commonplace and when Lockheed released its first flight manual (i.e., the Air Force "dash one" manual for the aircraft), F-117A was the designation printed on the cover.

A televised documentary quoted a senior member of the F-117A development team as saying that the top-notch USAF fighter pilots required to fly the new aircraft were more easily attracted to an aircraft with an "F" designation for fighter, as opposed to a bomber ("B") or attack ("A") designation.

Design

The F-117 is shaped to deflect radar signals and is about the size of an F-15 Eagle. The single-seat Nighthawk is powered by two non-afterburning General Electric
GE-Aviation
GE Aviation, a subsidiary of General Electric, is headquartered in Evendale, Ohio . GE Aviation is the top supplier of aircraft engines in the world, and offers engines for the majority of commercial aircraft. GE Aviation is part of the General Electric conglomerate, which is one of the world's...

 F404 turbofan engines, and has quadruple-redundant fly-by-wire flight controls
Fly-by-wire
Fly-by-wire is a system that replaces the conventional manual flight controls of an aircraft with an electronic interface. The movements of flight controls are converted to electronic signals transmitted by wires , and flight control computers determine how to move the actuators at each control...

. It is air refuelable
Aerial refueling
Aerial refueling, also called air refueling, in-flight refueling , air-to-air refueling or tanking, is the process of transferring fuel from one aircraft to another during flight....

. To lower development costs, the avionics, fly-by-wire systems, and other parts are derived from the General Dynamics F-16 Fighting Falcon, McDonnell Douglas F/A-18 Hornet and McDonnell Douglas F-15E Strike Eagle. The parts were originally described as spares on budgets for these aircraft, to keep the F-117 project secret. The F-117 Nighthawk has a radar signature of about 0.025 m² (0.269097760417743 sq ft).

Among the penalties for stealth are lower engine power thrust, due to losses in the inlet and outlet, a very low wing aspect ratio
Aspect ratio (wing)
In aerodynamics, the aspect ratio of a wing is essentially the ratio of its length to its breadth . A high aspect ratio indicates long, narrow wings, whereas a low aspect ratio indicates short, stubby wings....

, and a high sweep angle (50°) needed to deflect incoming radar waves to the sides. With these design considerations and no afterburner
AfterBurner
The AfterBurner is a lighting solution for the Game Boy Advance system that was created by Triton-Labs.Originally, portablemonopoly.net was a website created to petition Nintendo to put some kind of light in their Game Boy Advance system...

, the F-117 is limited to subsonic speeds.

The F-117A is equipped with sophisticated navigation and attack systems integrated into a digital avionics suite. It carries no radar, which lowers emissions and cross-section. It navigates primarily by GPS
Global Positioning System
The Global Positioning System is a space-based global navigation satellite system that provides location and time information in all weather, anywhere on or near the Earth, where there is an unobstructed line of sight to four or more GPS satellites...

 and high-accuracy inertial navigation. Missions are coordinated by an automated planning system that can automatically perform all aspects of an attack mission, including weapons release. Targets are acquired by a thermal imaging infrared
Infrared
Infrared light is electromagnetic radiation with a wavelength longer than that of visible light, measured from the nominal edge of visible red light at 0.74 micrometres , and extending conventionally to 300 µm...

 system, slaved to a laser
Laser
A laser is a device that emits light through a process of optical amplification based on the stimulated emission of photons. The term "laser" originated as an acronym for Light Amplification by Stimulated Emission of Radiation...

 that finds the range and designates targets for laser-guided bomb
Laser-guided bomb
A laser-guided bomb is a guided bomb that uses semi-active laser homing to strike a designated target with greater accuracy than an unguided bomb. LGBs are one of the most common and widespread guided bombs, used by a large number of the world's air forces.- Overview :Laser-guided munitions use a...

s. The F-117A's split internal bay can carry 5,000 lb (2,300 kg) of ordnance. Typical weapons are a pair of GBU-10, GBU-12, or GBU-27 laser-guided bombs, two BLU-109 penetration bombs, or two Joint Direct Attack Munitions (JDAMs), a GPS/INS guided stand-off bomb.

Operational history

During the program's early years, from 1984 to mid-1992, the F-117A fleet was based at Tonopah Test Range Airport
Tonopah Test Range Airport
Tonopah Test Range Airport , also Senior Trend project site PS-66, is located near the center of the Tonopah Test Range, southeast of Tonopah, Nevada and northwest of Las Vegas, Nevada. It is a major airfield with a runway, instrument approach facilities, and nighttime illumination...

, Nevada
Nevada
Nevada is a state in the western, mountain west, and southwestern regions of the United States. With an area of and a population of about 2.7 million, it is the 7th-largest and 35th-most populous state. Over two-thirds of Nevada's people live in the Las Vegas metropolitan area, which contains its...

 where it served under the 4450th Tactical Group. Because the F-117 was classified during this time, the 4450th Tactical Group was "officially" located at Nellis Air Force Base
Nellis Air Force Base
Nellis Air Force Base is a United States Air Force Base, located approximately northeast of Las Vegas, Nevada. It is under the jurisdiction of Air Combat Command .-Overview:...

, Nevada and equipped with A-7 Corsair II
A-7 Corsair II
The Ling-Temco-Vought A-7 Corsair II is a carrier-based subsonic light attack aircraft introduced to replace the United States Navy's Douglas A-4 Skyhawk, initially entering service during the Vietnam War...

 aircraft. The 4450th was absorbed by the 37th Tactical Fighter Wing in 1989. In 1992, the entire fleet was transferred to Holloman Air Force Base
Holloman Air Force Base
Holloman Air Force Base is a United States Air Force base located six miles southwest of the central business district of Alamogordo, a city in Otero County, New Mexico, United States. The base was named in honor of Col. George V. Holloman, a pioneer in guided missile research...

, New Mexico
New Mexico
New Mexico is a state located in the southwest and western regions of the United States. New Mexico is also usually considered one of the Mountain States. With a population density of 16 per square mile, New Mexico is the sixth-most sparsely inhabited U.S...

, where it was placed under the command of the 49th Fighter Wing
49th Fighter Wing
The 49th Wing is an air combat unit of the United States Air Force and the host unit at Holloman Air Force Base, New Mexico. The 49 WG is part of the Air Combat Command Twelfth Air Force....

. This move also eliminated the Key Air and American Trans Air contract flights to Tonopah, which flew 22,000 passenger trips on 300 flights from Nellis to Tonopah per month.

F-117 pilots called themselves "Bandits". Each of the 558 Air Force pilots who have flown the F-117 have a Bandit number, such as "Bandit 52", that indicates the sequential order of their first flight in the F-117.

The F-117 has been used several times in war. Its first mission was during the United States invasion of Panama
United States invasion of Panama
The United States Invasion of Panama, code-named Operation Just Cause, was the invasion of Panama by the United States in December 1989. It occurred during the administration of U.S. President George H. W...

 in 1989. During that invasion two F-117A Nighthawks dropped two bombs on Rio Hato airfield.

During the Persian Gulf War in 1991, the F-117A flew approximately 1,300 sorties and scored direct hits on 1,600 high-value targets in Iraq over 6,905 flight hours. Only 2.5% of the American aircraft in Iraq were F-117s, yet they struck more than 40% of the strategic targets. F-117As dropped over 2,000 tons of precision-guided munitions and struck their targets with over an 80% success rate. "Although the 37th Tactical Fighter Wing Provisional and its 42 stealth fighters represented just 2.5 percent of all allied fighter and attack aircraft in the Persian Gulf
Persian Gulf
The Persian Gulf, in Southwest Asia, is an extension of the Indian Ocean located between Iran and the Arabian Peninsula.The Persian Gulf was the focus of the 1980–1988 Iran-Iraq War, in which each side attacked the other's oil tankers...

, the F-117As were assigned against more than 31 percent of the strategic Iraqi military targets attacked during the first 24 hours of the air campaign."
It was one of very few U.S. or Coalition
Coalition of the Gulf War
The Coalition of the Gulf War were the countries officially opposed to the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait during the 1990 / 1991 Persian Gulf War.-Coalition by number of military personnel:-United States:*Norman Schwarzkopf*Colin Powell*Calvin Waller...

 aircraft types to strike targets in downtown Baghdad. Its stealth characteristics protected it from the SAM
Surface-to-air missile
A surface-to-air missile or ground-to-air missile is a missile designed to be launched from the ground to destroy aircraft or other missiles...

 and AAA-saturated environment of the city, and due both to its precision-guided weaponry and its avoidance of having to jettison ordnance in defensive maneuvers F-117 missions proved less likely to cause civilian casualties and collateral damage.

Following its move to Holloman AFB in 1992, the F-117A and the men and women of the 49th Fighter Wing were deployed to Southwest Asia on multiple occasions. On their first deployment, crews flew non-stop from Holloman to Kuwait, a flight of approximately 18.5 hours – a record for single-seat fighters that stands today.

The F-117 was subsequently used in Operation Allied Force
Operation Allied Force
The NATO bombing of Yugoslavia was NATO's military operation against the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia during the Kosovo War. The strikes lasted from March 24, 1999 to June 10, 1999...

 in 1999, Operation Enduring Freedom in 2001, and Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2003.

Combat loss

Only one F-117 (AF ser. no. 82-0806) was lost to enemy action. It was shot down during a mission against the Army of Yugoslavia on 27 March 1999, during Operation Allied Force. About 8:15 pm local time, SA-3s were fired from about 8 miles (12.9 km) away, launched by a Yugoslav version of the Soviet Isayev S-125 "Neva" (NATO name SA-3 "Goa") anti-aircraft missile system. The launcher was run by elements of the 3rd Battalion of the 250th Air Defence Missile Brigade under the command of Colonel Zoltán Dani
Zoltán Dani
Zoltán Dani is a former colonel of the Yugoslav Army and former commander of the 3rd battery of the 250th Missile Brigade, which shot down an F-117 Nighthawk near the village of Buđanovci on 27 March 1999, during the Kosovo War. The hit was achieved with a SA-3 Goa SAM system...

. According to NATO Commander
Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe
Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe is the central command of NATO military forces. It is located at Casteau, north of the Belgian city of Mons...

 Wesley Clark
Wesley Clark
Wesley Kanne Clark, Sr., is a retired general of the United States Army. Graduating as valedictorian of the class of 1966 at West Point, he was awarded a Rhodes Scholarship to the University of Oxford where he obtained a degree in Philosophy, Politics and Economics, and later graduated from the...

 and other NATO generals, Dani detected F-117s by operating his radars on unusually long wavelengths, making the aircraft visible for brief periods. According to Dani in a 2007 interview, his troops spotted the aircraft on radar when its bomb-bay doors opened, raising its radar signature. One of the missiles detonated near the F-117 by its proximity fuze
Proximity fuze
A proximity fuze is a fuze that is designed to detonate an explosive device automatically when the distance to target becomes smaller than a predetermined value or when the target passes through a given plane...

. Dani said he kept most of his missile sites intact by frequently moving them, and had spotters looking for F-117s and other NATO aircraft. He oversaw the modification of his targeting radar to improve its detection. He later recanted this claim, saying that it was meant as a tongue-in-cheek jab to his former American adversaries and their customary boastfulness.

After the explosion, the aircraft became uncontrollable, forcing the pilot to eject. The pilot was recovered a short time later by a U.S. Marine Corps combat search and rescue
Combat search and rescue
Combat search and rescue are search and rescue operations that are carried out during war that are within or near combat zones.A CSAR mission may be carried out by a task force of helicopters, ground-attack aircraft, tankers and an airborne command post...

 team. Photos show that the aircraft struck the ground at low speed in an inverted position, and that the airframe remained relatively intact. U.S. forces decided not to bomb the wreckage because civilians were near. The Serbs are believed to have invited Russian personnel to inspect the aircraft's remains, compromising the then 25-year-old U.S. stealth technology.

The F-117's pilot was initially misidentified. While the name "Capt Ken 'Wiz' Dwelle" was painted on the canopy, it was revealed in 2007 that the pilot was actually Lt Col Dale Zelko, USAF.

Retirement

Though advanced for its time, the F-117's stealthy faceted airframe required a large amount of maintenance and was eventually superseded by streamlined shapes produced with computer-aided design
Computer-aided design
Computer-aided design , also known as computer-aided design and drafting , is the use of computer technology for the process of design and design-documentation. Computer Aided Drafting describes the process of drafting with a computer...

. The Air Force had once planned to retire the F-117 in 2011, but Program Budget Decision 720 (PBD 720), dated 28 December 2005, proposed retiring it by October 2008 to free up an estimated $1.07 billion to buy more F-22 Raptors. PBD 720 called for 10 F-117s to be retired in FY 2007 and the remaining 42 in FY 2008, stating that other Air Force planes and missiles could stealthily deliver precision payloads, including the B-2 Spirit, F-22 and JASSM.

In late 2006, the Air Force closed the F-117 formal training unit (FTU), and announced the retirement of the F-117. The first six aircraft to be retired made their last flight on 12 March 2007 after a ceremony at Holloman AFB to commemorate the aircraft's career. Brigadier General David Goldfein, commander of the 49th Fighter Wing, said at the ceremony, "With the launch of these great aircraft today, the circle comes to a close – their service to our nation's defense fulfilled, their mission accomplished and a job well done. We send them today to their final resting place – a home they are intimately familiar with – their first, and only, home outside of Holloman."

Unlike most other Air Force aircraft which are retired to Davis-Monthan AFB for scrapping, or dispersal to museums, most of the F-117s were retired to their original hangars at the Tonopah Test Range Airport
Tonopah Test Range Airport
Tonopah Test Range Airport , also Senior Trend project site PS-66, is located near the center of the Tonopah Test Range, southeast of Tonopah, Nevada and northwest of Las Vegas, Nevada. It is a major airfield with a runway, instrument approach facilities, and nighttime illumination...

. At Tonopah, their wings were removed and the aircraft are stored in their original climate-controlled hangars. The decommissioning occurred in eight phases, with the operational aircraft retired to Tonapah in seven waves beginning on 13 March 2007, and ending with the last wave's arrival on 22 April 2008. Four aircraft were kept flying beyond April by the 410th Flight Test Squadron at Palmdale for flight test. By the beginning of August, two were remaining. The last F-117 (AF ser. no. 86-0831) left Palmdale to fly to Tonopah on 11 August 2008. This was the last flight of an F-117. With the last aircraft retired, the 410th was deactivated in a ceremony on 1 August 2008.

Through 2009, one F-117 had been scrapped. AF ser. no. 79-0784 was scrapped at the Palmdale test facility on 26 April 2008. The aircraft was the last F-117 at Palmdale and was scrapped to test an effective method for destroying F-117 airframes.

Although officially retired, the F-117 fleet remains intact, and photos show the aircraft carefully mothballed. No further aircraft have been scrapped, or transferred to museums.

F-117N “Seahawk”

In the early 1990s, Lockheed proposed an upgraded, carrier capable variant of the F-117 dubbed the “Seahawk” to the U.S. Navy as an alternative to the canceled A/F-X program. The unsolicited proposal was received poorly by the Department of Defense, which had little interest in the single mission capabilities of such an aircraft, particularly as it would take money away from the Joint Advanced Strike Technology program, which evolved into the Joint Strike Fighter. The new aircraft would have differed from the land-based F-117 in several ways, including the addition “of elevators, a bubble canopy, a less sharply swept wing and reconfigured tail". The “N” variant would also be re-engined to use General Electric F414
General Electric F414
The General Electric F414 is an afterburning turbofan engine in the 22,000 lbf thrust class produced by GE Aviation. The F414 was developed from GE's widely-used F404 turbofan for use in the Boeing F/A-18E/F Super Hornet.-Origin:...

 turbofans instead of the older General Electric F404s. Furthermore the aircraft would be optionally fitted with hardpoints, allowing for an additional 8000 lb (3,628.7 kg) of payload, and a new ground attack radar with air-to-air capability. In that role the F-117N could carry AIM-120 AMRAAM
AIM-120 AMRAAM
The AIM-120 Advanced Medium-Range Air-to-Air Missile, or AMRAAM , is a modern beyond-visual-range air-to-air missile capable of all-weather day-and-night operations. Designed with the same form-factor as the previous generation of semi-active guided Sparrow missiles, it is a fire-and-forget...

 air-to-air missiles.

After being rebuffed by the Navy, Lockheed submitted an updated proposal that included afterburning capability and a larger emphasis on the F-117N as a multi-mission aircraft, rather than just an attack aircraft. In efforts to boost interest, Lockheed also proposed an F-117B land-based variant that shared most of the F-117N capabilities. This variant was proposed to both the US Air Force and the Royal Air Force
Royal Air Force
The Royal Air Force is the aerial warfare service branch of the British Armed Forces. Formed on 1 April 1918, it is the oldest independent air force in the world...

. This renewed F-117N proposal was also known as the A/F-117X. Neither the F-117N or the F-117B were purchased by any party.

Operators

USA: United States Air Force
United States Air Force
The United States Air Force is the aerial warfare service branch of the United States Armed Forces and one of the American uniformed services. Initially part of the United States Army, the USAF was formed as a separate branch of the military on September 18, 1947 under the National Security Act of...

  • 4450th Tactical Group
    4450th Tactical Group
    The 4450th Tactical Group is an inactive United States Air Force unit. It was headquartered at Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada, and operationally located at Tonopah Test Range Airport, Nevada. It was inactivated on 5 October 1989.-History:...

     – Tonopah Test Range Airport
    Tonopah Test Range Airport
    Tonopah Test Range Airport , also Senior Trend project site PS-66, is located near the center of the Tonopah Test Range, southeast of Tonopah, Nevada and northwest of Las Vegas, Nevada. It is a major airfield with a runway, instrument approach facilities, and nighttime illumination...

    • 4450th Tactical Squadron (1981–1989)
    • 4451st Tactical Squadron (1981–1989)
    • 4453rd Test and Evaluation Squadron (1985–1989)
  • 37th Tactical Fighter Wing
    37th Training Wing
    The 37th Training Wing is a wing of the United States Air Force stationed at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas.The 37th TRW provides basic military, professional and technical skills, and English language training for the Air Force, other military services, government agencies, and...

     – Tonopah Test Range Airport
    • 415th Tactical Fighter Squadron (1989–1993)
    • 416th Tactical Fighter Squadron
      416th Fighter Squadron
      The 416th Fighter Squadron is an inactive United States Air Force unit. Its last assignment was with the 49th Fighter Wing at Holloman Air Force Base, New Mexico...

       (1989–1993)
    • 417th Tactical Fighter Training Squadron
      417th Weapons Squadron
      The 417th Weapons Squadron is an inactive United States Air Force unit. Its last assignment was with the USAF Weapons School based at Holloman AFB, New Mexico. It was inactivated on September 14, 2006....

       (1989–1993)
  • 49th Fighter Wing – Holloman AFB
    Holloman Air Force Base
    Holloman Air Force Base is a United States Air Force base located six miles southwest of the central business district of Alamogordo, a city in Otero County, New Mexico, United States. The base was named in honor of Col. George V. Holloman, a pioneer in guided missile research...

    • 7th Fighter Squadron
      7th Fighter Squadron
      The 7th Fighter Squadron is part of the 49th Fighter Wing at Holloman Air Force Base, New Mexico.-Mission:The 7th Fighter Squadron as a part of the 49th Operations Group supports national security objectives, as directed by the Joint Chiefs of Staff, by utilizing the F-22A Raptor aircraft.The 7 FS...

       (1991–2006)
    • 8th Fighter Squadron
      8th Fighter Squadron
      The 8th Fighter Squadron was part of the 49th Fighter Wing at Holloman Air Force Base, New Mexico. It operated the F-22A Raptor, having previously operated the F-117 Nighthawk aircraft from 1992 until the squadron's inactivation on May 16, 2008...

       (1992–2008)
    • 9th Fighter Squadron
      9th Fighter Squadron
      The 9th Fighter Squadron was part of the 49th Fighter Wing at Holloman Air Force Base, New Mexico. It operated the F-117 Nighthawk aircraft conducting air superiority missions...

       (1993–2008)

Notable accidents

  • F-117 serial number 79-0785 was lost on 20 April 1982 during takeoff on its maiden flight. The cause was incorrect assembly following a major design change to the flight control computer's inputs sequence, different to that of previous aircraft. As a result, the aircraft went out of control on takeoff, and crashed. Pilot Robert L. Riedenauer was unable to eject in time, and was seriously injured, requiring eight months of hospitalization and was forced to retire from flying. The battered airframe was taken to Skunk Works plant at Burbank, California for use as a functional engineering testbed for component testing.
  • F-117 S/N 80-0792 was lost on 11 July 1986. The aircraft suffered a controlled descent into terrain, and was destroyed on impact. The pilot, Maj Ross E. Mulhare, was killed in the crash. The cause was determined to be spatial disorientation
    Spatial disorientation
    Spatial disorientation is the inability to correctly interpret aircraft attitude, altitude or airspeed, in relation to the Earth or point of reference. Spatial disorientation is a condition in which an aircraft pilot's perception of direction does not agree with reality...

    .
  • F-117 S/N 85-0815 was lost on 14 October 1987. The aircraft suffered a controlled descent into terrain, and was destroyed on impact about 100 miles north of Nellis Air Force Base
    Nellis Air Force Base
    Nellis Air Force Base is a United States Air Force Base, located approximately northeast of Las Vegas, Nevada. It is under the jurisdiction of Air Combat Command .-Overview:...

    , just east of Tonopah. The pilot, Maj Michael C. Stewart, was killed in the crash. The cause was determined to be spatial disorientation.
  • F-117 S/N 82-0801 Perpetrator was lost on 4 August 1992. The aircraft crashed approximately eight miles northeast of Holloman Air Force Base
    Holloman Air Force Base
    Holloman Air Force Base is a United States Air Force base located six miles southwest of the central business district of Alamogordo, a city in Otero County, New Mexico, United States. The base was named in honor of Col. George V. Holloman, a pioneer in guided missile research...

    , and was destroyed on impact. The pilot, Capt John B. Mills, 416th FS, ejected safely. The cause was determined to be an improperly installed bleed air duct.
  • F-117 S/N 86-0822 was lost on 10 May 1995. The aircraft suffered a controlled descent into terrain, and was destroyed on impact approximately seven miles south of Zuni, New Mexico on the Zuni Indian Reservation
    Zuni Indian Reservation
    The Zuni Indian Reservation is the homeland of the Zuni tribe of Native Americans. It lies in the Zuni River valley and is located primarily in McKinley and Cibola counties in western New Mexico, about west of Albuquerque. There are also several smaller non-contiguous sections in Apache County,...

    . The pilot, Capt Kenneth Levens, was killed in the crash. The cause was determined to be spatial disorientation following autopilot failure.
  • F-117 S/N 81-0793 was lost on 14 September 1997 during an airshow at Martin State Airport
    Martin State Airport
    Martin State Airport is a public use airport located nine nautical miles east of the central business district of Baltimore, in Baltimore County, Maryland, United States...

     in Baltimore
    Baltimore
    Baltimore is the largest independent city in the United States and the largest city and cultural center of the US state of Maryland. The city is located in central Maryland along the tidal portion of the Patapsco River, an arm of the Chesapeake Bay. Baltimore is sometimes referred to as Baltimore...

    , Maryland. The aircraft suffered a catastrophic wing failure, resulting in the port wing completely separating from the fuselage. The aircraft was destroyed on impact. The pilot ejected safely. The cause was determined to be missing wing bolts.

Aircraft on display

  • The first YF-117A (79-0780) is currently on pedestal display at Nellis Air Force Base
    Nellis Air Force Base
    Nellis Air Force Base is a United States Air Force Base, located approximately northeast of Las Vegas, Nevada. It is under the jurisdiction of Air Combat Command .-Overview:...

    , Nevada. (36°13′38.00"N 115°3′33.28"W) It was placed on display on Nellis Boulevard on 16 May 1992, and was the first F-117 to be made a gate guardian.
  • The second YF-117A (79-0781) "Scorpion" is currently on static display at the National Museum of the Air Force
    National Museum of the United States Air Force
    The National Museum of the United States Air Force is the official museum of the United States Air Force located at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base northeast of Dayton, Ohio. The NMUSAF is the world's largest and oldest military aviation museum with more than 360 aircraft and missiles on display...

     at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base
    Wright-Patterson Air Force Base
    Wright-Patterson Air Force Base is a United States Air Force base in Greene and Montgomery counties in the state of Ohio. It includes both Wright and Patterson Fields, which were originally Wilbur Wright Field and Fairfield Aviation General Supply Depot. Patterson Field is located approximately...

    , Ohio. It was delivered to the museum on 17 July 1991.
  • The third YF-117A built (79-0782) "Scorpion 3" is on static display at Holloman Air Force Base, repainted to resemble the first F-117A used to drop weapons in combat. This aircraft was used for acoustics and navigation system testing. While wearing a flag painted on its bottom surface, this aircraft revealed the type's existence to high-ranking officials at Groom Lake
    Groom Lake
    Groom Lake is a salt flat in Nevada used for runways of the Nellis Bombing Range Test Site airport on the north of the Area 51 USAF military installation. The lake at elevation is ~ from north to south and from east to west at its widest point...

     on 14 December 1983, the first semi-public unveiling of the aircraft. It was placed on display at Holloman on 5 April 2008.
  • The fourth YF-117A (79-0789) "Scorpion 4" is currently on static display in the Blackbird Airpark at Air Force Plant 42 in Palmdale, California. It was used for avionics integration tests. It was moved to the Airpark on 3 March 2008.
  • The remains of the F-117A (82-0806) "Something Wicked", downed over Serbia (see "Combat losses"), are displayed at the Museum of Aviation in Belgrade close to Belgrade Nikola Tesla Airport
    Belgrade Nikola Tesla Airport
    Belgrade Nikola Tesla Airport is Serbia's busiest airport, also known as Surčin , after a nearby Belgrade district.Named after Nikola Tesla, the airport is situated west, of central Belgrade, in the Municipality of Surčin, surrounded by Syrmia's fertile lowlands...

    .

Nicknames

The aircraft's official name is "Night Hawk", however the alternative form "Nighthawk" is frequently used.

As it prioritized stealth over aerodynamics, it earned the nickname "Wobblin'-Goblin" due to its alleged instability at low speeds; according to F-117 pilots, the nickname is undeserved. "Wobblin' (or wobbly) Goblin" is likely a holdover from the early Have Blue / Senior Trend (FSD) days of the project when instability was a problem. In the USAF, "Goblin" (without wobbly) persists as a nickname because of the aircraft's appearance. During Operation Desert Storm, Saudis dubbed the aircraft "Shaba", which is the Arabic word for "Ghost".

Specifications


Notable appearances in media

The Omaha Nighthawks
Omaha Nighthawks
The Omaha Nighthawks are a professional American football team based in Omaha, Nebraska, which plays in the United Football League, joining the league as an expansion team in 2010. For their first season, the Nighthawks played their home games at Johnny Rosenblatt Stadium before moving to TD...

 professional football team uses the F-117 Nighthawk as its logo.

See also

External links

The source of this article is wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.  The text of this article is licensed under the GFDL.
 
x
OK