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"F117" redirects here. For the F117-PW-100 turbofan engine, see Pratt & Whitney PW2000.

F-117 Nighthawk
Role Stealth attack aircraft[1]
National origin United States
Manufacturer Lockheed Corporation

Lockheed Martin

First flight 18 June 1981
Introduced 15 October 1983
Retired 22 April 2008[2]
Primary user United States Air Force
Number built 64 (5 YF-117A, 59 F-117A)
Unit cost US$42.6 M (flyaway cost)

US$111.2 M (total program)[3]

Developed from Lockheed Have Blue

The Lockheed F-117 Nighthawk is a stealth ground attack aircraft formerly operated by the United States Air Force. The F-117A's first flight was in 1981, and it achieved initial operating capability status in October 1983.[1] The F-117A was "acknowledged" and revealed to the world in November 1988.[4]

A product of the Skunk Works and a development of the Have Blue technology demonstrator, it became the first operational aircraft initially designed around stealth technology. The F-117A was widely publicized during the Persian Gulf War of 1991.

The Air Force retired the F-117 on 22 April 2008,[2] primarily due to the fielding of the F-22 Raptor[5] and the impending fielding of the F-35 Lightning II.[6]




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 F404 turbofan engines, and has quadruple-redundant fly-by-wire flight controls. It is air refuelable. To lower development costs, the avionics, fly-by-wire systems, and other parts are derived from the F-16 Fighting Falcon, F/A-18 Hornet and 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.[31]

Among the penalties for stealth are lower engine power thrust, due to losses in the inlet and outlet, a very low wing aspect ratio, and a high sweep angle (50°) needed to deflect incoming radar waves to the sides.[32] With these design considerations and no afterburner, 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 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 system, slaved to a laser that finds the range and designates targets for laser-guided bombs.

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.

[[[Lockheed F-117 Nighthawk|edit]]] OperatorsEdit

United States
United States Air Force[33]

[[[Lockheed F-117 Nighthawk|edit]]] Operational historyEdit

EnlargeAn F-117A during landing employing a drag-chute.During the program's early years, from 1984 to mid-1992, the F-117A fleet was based at Tonopah Test Range Airport, Nevada 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, Nevada and equipped with A-7 Corsair II 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, New Mexico, where it was placed under the command of the 49th Fighter Wing. The move eliminated the Key Air and American Trans Air contract flights, 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.[34]

The F-117 has been used several times in war. Its first mission was during the United States invasion of Panama in 1989.[35] During that invasion two F-117A Nighthawks dropped two bombs on Rio Hato airfield. EnlargeF-117s in formation.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[1] over 6,905 flight hours.[36] Only 2.5% of the American aircraft in Iraq were F-117s, yet they struck more than 40% of the strategic targets.[37] 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, 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."[36] One of the missions resulted in the Amiriyah shelter massacre on 13 February 1991. Lockheed F-117 Nighthawk.ogvEnlargeLockheed F-117 Nighthawk USAF video.It was among the only U.S. or coalition aircraft to strike targets in downtown Baghdad. Among the aircraft with which the Nighthawk shared this distinction were the F-16s which attacked Baghdad during daylight on 19 January 1991 during the "Package Q" mission—the largest single sortie flown during the war.[38]

Since moving to Holloman AFB in 1992, the F-117A and the men and women of the 49th Fighter Wing have deployed to Southwest Asia more than once. On their first trip, the crews flew non-stop from Holloman to Kuwait, a flight of approximately 18.5 hours – a record for single-seat fighters that stands today.[1]

It has since been used in Operation Allied Force in 1999, Operation Enduring Freedom in 2001 and in Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2003.

[[[Lockheed F-117 Nighthawk|edit]]] Combat lossesEdit

EnlargeCanopy of F-117 shot down on 27 March 1999, near the village of Buđanovci, Serbia (Museum of Aviation in Belgrade).One F-117 has been lost in combat with the Army of Yugoslavia. On 27 March 1999, during the Kosovo War, the 3rd Battalion of the 250th Air Defence Missile Brigade under the command of Colonel Zoltán Dani,[39] downed an F-117A, callsign "Vega 31", AF serial number 82-0806, with a Yugoslav version of the Soviet Isayev S-125 'Neva' (NATO name SA-3 'Goa') anti-aircraft missile system.[40][41] According to NATO Commander Wesley Clark and other NATO generals, Yugoslav air defenses detected F-117s by operating their radars on unusually long wavelengths, making the aircraft visible to radar for brief periods. It is also possible that the aircraft was visible due to a disruption of its radar signature caused by open bomb-bay doors. This was the justification given by Colonel Dani in a 2007 interview.[42] EnlargeParts of the downed F-117 on display in the Military Museum in Belgrade.Reportedly, several SA-3s were launched from approximately 8 miles out, one of which detonated near the F-117A, forcing the pilot to eject. Though still classified, it is believed that the F-117 has no radar warning indicator, so the pilot's first indication of an incoming missile was likely seeing its flame. At this distance and combined speed the pilot had about six seconds to react before impact. According to an interview, Zoltán Dani 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.[41] The commanders and crews of the SAMs guessed the flight paths of earlier F-117A attacks from rare radar spottings and positioned their SAM launchers and spotters accordingly. It is believed that the SA-3 crews and spotters were able to locate and track F-117A 82-806 visually, probably with infra-red and night vision systems. He claimed that his battery shot down an F-16 as well.[41]

The F-117 pilot survived and was later rescued by U.S. Air Force Pararescue personnel. The wreckage of the F-117 was not promptly bombed, due to possible media fallout from news footage of civilians around the wreckage. The Serbs are believed to have invited Russian personnel to inspect the remains, compromising the then 25-year old US stealth technology.[43] The F-117's pilot was 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.[44][45]

Some sources claim that a second F-117A was damaged during the same campaign, allegedly on 30 April.[46] Although the aircraft returned to base, it supposedly never flew again.[47][48]

[[[Lockheed F-117 Nighthawk|edit]]] RetirementEdit

Despite its productive combat service, the F-117 was designed with late 1970s technologies. Its stealth technology, while more advanced than that of any other aircraft except the B-2 Spirit and the F-22 Raptor, is maintenance intensive. Furthermore, the facet-based stealth design has been surpassed by newer technology. Program Budget Decision 720 (PBD 720), dated 28 December 2005, proposed retiring the entire fleet by October 2008 to permit buying more F-22As. PBD 720 called for 10 aircraft to be retired in FY 2007 and the remaining 42 aircraft in FY 2008 and stated there were more capable Air Force assets that could provide low observable, precision penetrating weapons capability including the B-2, F-22 and JASSM.[49] The Air Force originally planned to retire the F-117 in 2011. The Air Force later decided to retire the F-117 sooner to shift funds to modernizing the rest of the fleet.[34] This would save an estimated $1.07 billion.[50] EnlargeA pair of specially painted F-117 Nighthawks fly off from their last refueling by the Ohio Air National Guard's 121st Air Refueling Wing.In late 2006, the Air Force closed the F-117 formal training unit (FTU),[51] and announced the retirement of the F-117.[52] The first six aircraft to be retired made the 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."[53]

Unlike most other Air Force aircraft which are retired to Davis-Monthan AFB, the F-117s are being retired to the Tonopah Test Range Airport. At Tonopah, their wings will be removed and the aircraft will be stored in their original hangars.[53] On 11 March 2008, it was reported that the last F-117s in service would touch down on 22 April 2008 in Tonopah Test Range Airfield in Nevada, the site of the F-117's first flight.[34] The F-117 was retired during ceremonies at Palmdale and Tonopah on 22 April 2008.[2] 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, and the last F-117 left Palmdale to fly to Tonopah on 11 August 2008.[54] With the last aircraft leaving for retirement, the 410th was deactivated in a ceremony on 1 August 2008.[55]

[[[Lockheed F-117 Nighthawk|edit]]] Aircraft on displayEdit

[[[Lockheed F-117 Nighthawk|edit]]] SpecificationsEdit

An orthographically projected diagram of the F-117A NighthawkEnlargeAn F-117 conducts a live exercise bombing run using GBU-27 laser-guided bombs.Data from US Air Force,[57] National Museum[1]

General characteristics

Performance

Armament

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