The F-117 is the stealthy fighter you can now see for yourself (2024)

The Lockheed F-117 Nighthawk, known to the world as the “Stealth Fighter,” entered operational service in 1989 with a limited role in the invasion of Panama, but the public became more aware of the aircraft when it saw widespread use in combat during the first Gulf War in 1990-91.

The airplane employed faceted angles across its entire surface and consequently had a remarkably small radar cross section, making it extremely difficult to detect while in flight. The F-117 was also coated in plates lined with radar-absorbing material (RAM) held in place with a special adhesive. Details about the composition of the F-117′s RAM remain classified to this day, but analysts believe it is made of ferromagnetic particles embedded in neoprene sheets, which absorbs radar energy.

RELATED
The F-117 is the stealthy fighter you can now see for yourself (1)
US Air Force activates units dedicated to electronic warfare
“Our team here at Robins will identify what our weak points are, and be able to point us in the direction we need to go,” said Col. Josh Koslov.

By ColinDemarest

Until recently, the public had, essentially, no way to view an F-117 up close. That’s been changing as a small number of F-117s have been released to museums for the first time since Congress passed legislation in 2017 ending a requirement that the aircraft “be maintained in a condition that would allow recall of those aircraft to future service.”

Hill Aerospace Museum near Ogden, Utah, received its F-117 in August 2020, and the aircraft is nearing completion of an extensive restoration. The museum’s Nighthawk, serial number 82-0799, rolled off the assembly line in 1982 at Lockheed’s fabrication plant in Burbank, California. It first flew in combat during Operation Desert Storm and eventually amassed 54 combat sorties across Operations Desert Storm, Allied Force and Iraqi Freedom.

Over its operational lifetime, 82-0799 flew as part of the 4450th Tactical Group and was based out of Tonopah Test Range in Nevada. The 4450th was the de facto home to the first F-117 squadrons and where much of the developmental work on the aircraft and the training of its pilots took place. It is worth noting that all F-117 flights out of Nevada took place at night to keep the secret craft out of sight of Soviet spy satellites. Aircraft 82-0799 also flew out of Holloman Air Force base in New Mexico as part of the 49th Fighter Wing when that unit handled F-117 operations.

The F-117 is the stealthy fighter you can now see for yourself (2)

The museum at Hill was chosen to receive its Nighthawk because of its institutional knowledge of the airplane. In December of 1998, Hill Air Force Base’s Air Logistics Center became responsible for repairing battle and crash damage to F-117s through the 649th Combat Logistics Support Squadron. This role required teams of Hill personnel to deploy around the world as needed to work on F-117s. The 649th performed this mission until 2008, when the F-117 retired from operational service. All of this translated to a deep familiarity with the care and handling of F-117s among personnel associated with Hill AFB.

The restoration team, including restoration lead Brandon Hedges and key team members Tim Randolph, George Burkey, Brandon Neagle and Dave Mitchell, have devoted an enormous number of man-hours to the restoration. Randolph, who was an F-117 crew chief during Desert Storm, recalled that the Nighthawk was a “tricky airplane” from a maintenance point of view, as it included parts from various other aircraft, including the main landing gear from the A-10, heads-up display from the F-15, ejection seat from the F-15/16, engines from the F/A-18 (minus the afterburner) and avionics and fly-by-wire system from the F-16.

The aircraft arrived at the museum in a bare-bones condition, stripped clean and with wings and tail removed. The plane was also lacking all fluids and both engines. Still, the restoration team received a few lucky breaks: 82-0799 arrived with a complete co*ckpit and, perhaps more importantly, a full tail assembly. The tail had been removed, but the museum had not expected it at all and believed it would need to be fabricated. Nonetheless, 82-0799 has tested the restoration team’s skills. Fully deprived of its classified outer coating, RAM and all of its leading edges, the aircraft on arrival looked very little like the F-117s that the public has come to know. The team had to replicate the appearance of a fully functional F-117 using only off-the-shelf materials.

The F-117 is the stealthy fighter you can now see for yourself (3)

The restoration has been accomplished on an extremely limited budget, made possible by the hard work of a dedicated (and unpaid) team that make use of a significant amount of donated material. Per Hedges, the entire restoration has only cost $4,000, a staggeringly small number compared to the typical investment required for most aircraft restorations; paint alone can often cost more than $10,000 for fighter aircraft restorations and far more for bombers.

An industrial supplier of automobile paint donated appropriate overlay material. In addition to paint, the restoration team further simulated RAM with Platinum Patch compound purchased in bulk at home improvement retailers. Perhaps the greatest challenge was recreating all the various leading edges of the entire airframe from scratch. The restoration team tried many different materials and construction methods to find a solution that looked just right. They ended up constructing most of the leading edges from a mixture of sheet metal and fiberglass panels. As of this writing, the restoration is approximately 85% complete and the aircraft is currently on display even as work continues.

Up close, and even though incomplete, 82-0799 is still a wonder to behold. Perched next to an SR-71C Blackbird (its spiritual forerunner), the F-117 appears much larger in person than it looks in photographs; in fact, it is actually about the same size as an F-15. The interior of the port bomb bay door is, surprisingly, graced by a handmade painting of the comic book character the Silver Surfer perched atop an F-117, a nod to the airplane’s nickname of “Midnight Rider.” Visitors to the museum now have the opportunity to see, up close and in person, an aircraft previously protected from public view that changed the history of military aviation in a lasting and meaningful way.

This article was originally published on HistoryNet.com.

In Other News
The F-117 is the stealthy fighter you can now see for yourself (4)
‘May the 4th be with you’: How World War II influenced ‘Star Wars’
One does not have to stray far to glean that the galaxy of “Star Wars” is rife with WWII-based allegories.
The F-117 is the stealthy fighter you can now see for yourself (5)
AI-controlled fighter jet takes Air Force secretary on historic ride
An AI-controlled F-16 flew Air Force Secretary Frank Kendall in lightning-fast maneuvers at more than 550 miles an hour as it pursued a manned jet nearby.
The F-117 is the stealthy fighter you can now see for yourself (6)
Will DOD need to start producing some medicines to protect troops?
In some cases, it could be cheaper and safer for the military to manufacture medicines troops need.
The F-117 is the stealthy fighter you can now see for yourself (7)
The Holocaust survivor who became a Medal of Honor recipient
Tibor Rubin had a history of defying the Reaper.
The F-117 is the stealthy fighter you can now see for yourself (8)
Impact of massive health care cyberattack on vets remains unclear
A massive cyberattack against a private health care firm in February may have exposed millions of veterans' personal medical records.

Load More

The F-117 is the stealthy fighter you can now see for yourself (2024)

FAQs

How stealthy is the F-117? ›

The airplane employed faceted angles across its entire surface and consequently had a remarkably small radar cross section, making it extremely difficult to detect while in flight. The F-117 was also coated in plates lined with radar-absorbing material (RAM) held in place with a special adhesive.

Is the F-117 stealth fighter still in service? ›

The USAF retired the F-117 in April 2008, primarily due to the fielding of the F-22 Raptor. Despite the type's official retirement, a portion of the fleet has been kept in airworthy condition, and F-117s have been observed flying since being retired from combat.

Did the F-117 see combat? ›

The Lockheed F-117 Nighthawk, known to the world as the “Stealth Fighter,” entered operational service in 1989 with a limited role in the invasion of Panama, but the public became more aware of the aircraft when it saw widespread use in combat during the first Gulf War in 1990-91.

What is the stealthiest US fighter jet? ›

Key features of The F-22 Raptor

One of the key features that make it the world's most advanced stealth fighter is its radar-evading capabilities. It has a radar cross-section the size of a marble, making it virtually invisible to radar systems.

What is the rarest stealth plane? ›

The famous Lockheed F-117A Nighthawk Stealth Fighter was that rarest commodity in the American military arsenal -- a well-kept secret.

Has AF 117 ever been shot down? ›

27, 1999, during the fourth night of Operation Allied Force (OAF) over Serbia, a U.S. Air Force F-117 Nighthawk (#82-0806), flown by Lt. Col. Darrell P. Zelko, was shot down while returning to Aviano airbase, after a strike mission against a target near Belgrade.

Does the F-117 have a gun? ›

The two F-117s used in Operation Just Cause (the F-117A's first use in combat) each dropped a single BLU-109/B 2,000-pound bomb. Officials say the F-117 has a self-defense capability, but close examination did not reveal an external gun port.

Have blue vs F-117? ›

While superficially similar to the later F-117, the Have Blue prototypes were smaller aircraft, about one quarter the weight of the F-117, with a wing sweep of 72.5° and inward-canted vertical tails (inverse V-tail).

Why is the F-117 black? ›

The F-117 is painted black because it was predominately used in night attack missions during combat and that color was thought to be able to blend more into the night sky on those missions it flew.

What is the fastest fighter jet? ›

According to BBC Science Focus, the NASA X-43 was the fastest aircraft ever made, with an extraordinary speed of Mach 9.6, or 7,366 mph. Coming in second place is the NASA/USAF X-15, with a max speed of 4,520 mph. However, the fastest fighter jets still in service is the MiG-25 Foxbat, reaching 2,190 mph.

Is the F-117 in War Thunder? ›

Stealth in War Thunder

The F-117 is not completely invisible. It is designed to be used in the fog of war (aka the confusion and chaos).

What is the secret aircraft of the United States? ›

The largely forgotten Model 853-21 Quiet Bird is a prototype stealth aircraft that predates the first flight of the Have Blue – F-117's precursor – by nearly 15 years. The effort began as a study into developing a low-observable aircraft to serve as an observation plane for the U.S. Army.

What is the most feared fighter jet in the world? ›

The F-22 Raptor, produced by the United States, is a stealth fighter known for its lethal capabilities. Used in the Syrian conflict, it excels in air-to-air and air-to-ground missions with unmatched speed and agility.

How did China steal F-35 plans? ›

At the time, Pentagon officials explained that the hackers used a method that encrypted data as it was being stolen, making it difficult to assess what specific data had been compromised.

Which country has the best fighter jets? ›

United States​ According to the Global Firepower 2024 Report, the United States dominates with 1854 jets, maintaining global air superiority.

Is the F-22 Stealthier than the F-35? ›

Compare Stealth Capability

The F-35 has “a smaller radar cross-section [compared to non-stealth airplanes] due to alignment of edges, masking engine and turbine, and serration of skin panels,” according to Aero Corner. But the F-22 has a lower radar cross section compared to the F-35.

Can the F-117 carry nukes? ›

Still, all the co*ckpit interfaces and diverse stores management capabilities were baked into the design—including the provision to carry and employ nuclear gravity bombs—namely the B57 and B61 (shown front and center in banner image).

Is the F-35 really stealthy? ›

Stealth is a key aspect of the F-35's design, and radar cross-section (RCS) is minimized through careful shaping of the airframe and the use of radar-absorbent materials (RAM); visible measures to reduce RCS include alignment of edges and continuous curvature of surfaces, serration of skin panels, and the masking of ...

Is the F-117 outdated? ›

The F-117 was designed in the 1970s and entered service in 1983, and by the 2000s, it was becoming obsolete and vulnerable to newer and more advanced air defense systems. For example, in 1999, one F-117 was shot down over Yugoslavia by an old Soviet-made surface-to-air missile (SAM) system.

Top Articles
Latest Posts
Article information

Author: Rob Wisoky

Last Updated:

Views: 5241

Rating: 4.8 / 5 (48 voted)

Reviews: 87% of readers found this page helpful

Author information

Name: Rob Wisoky

Birthday: 1994-09-30

Address: 5789 Michel Vista, West Domenic, OR 80464-9452

Phone: +97313824072371

Job: Education Orchestrator

Hobby: Lockpicking, Crocheting, Baton twirling, Video gaming, Jogging, Whittling, Model building

Introduction: My name is Rob Wisoky, I am a smiling, helpful, encouraging, zealous, energetic, faithful, fantastic person who loves writing and wants to share my knowledge and understanding with you.