The F-117 To Be Retired
The worlds first stealth aircraft, the F-117 will be retired at the end of this month.
The revolutionary F-117 Night Hawk, the worlds first attack aircraft to employ stealth technology, is scheduled to be retired at the end of this month.
F-117 Nighthawk Retires
‘The Black Jet’ with its futurist angular design has spent a wholesome 27 years serving as part of the Air Force’s arsenal, secretly patrolling hostile skies from Serbia to Iraq. This will all come to an end on April 22nd when the last F-117’s are scheduled to arrive at their final destination, Tonopah Test Range Airfield in Nevada, the site where the jet made its first flight in 1981.
Last month the Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Dayton, Ohio, which previously managed the F-117 program, had an informal private retirement ceremony with military leaders, base employees and representatives from Holloman Air Force Base in New Mexico.
F-117 NightHawks Retire
The last of the F-117’s will now fly to Palmdale, California, for one more retirement ceremony on April 21st, before making their final flight to Holloman.
Fifty-nine F-117s were made; 10 were retired in December 2006 and 27 since then, the Air Force said. Seven of the planes have crashed, one in Serbia in 1999.The technology which led to the development of the F-117 was designed back in the 1970’s and although it was not invisible to radar, the shape and coating of the F-117’s design greatly reduced its detection.
The single-seat aircraft was designed to fly into heavily defended areas undetected to drop its payloads with surgical precision.
Since the F-117 went operational a total of 558 pilots have flown the jet. Each pilot is then dubbed a ‘bandit’ each with their own bandit number. Feest, ‘Bandit 261’, was the first to lead the stealth fighter on missions into Iraq during Desert Storm in 1991.
He said the fire from surface-to-air missiles and anti-aircraft guns was so intense that he stopped looking at it to try to ease his fears:
“We knew stealth worked and it would take a lucky shot to hit us, but we knew a lucky shot could hit us at any time,”
Incredibly, not one stealth was hit during those missions.
The Air Force decided to accelerate the retirement of the F-117s to free up money to modernize the rest of the fleet. The F-117 is being replaced by the F-22 Raptor, which also has stealth technology.
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