Today, we have a stealth post but you should be able to see because this photo series is about the Lockheed F-117A Nighthawk.
The development of this plane has been shrouded with secrecy and even today after it’s retirement, lots of information about it is still classified.
Born out of the Have Blue technology demonstrator, the Nighthawk is an attack jet with stealth capabitilies although having a “F” designation and often being called a “stealth fighter”, the F-117 don’t have any air-to-air potential.
It’s design is made from 2-D flat surfaces as a result of the 1970s computer limitations because of this, some may say the aircraft’s frame was obsolete even before going into service. The Nighthawk was designed to have a very low Radar Cross-Section (RCS), this was made due to the project being developed by radar engineering rather than by aerospace engineering. One of the main problems of keeping a low RCS is that the plane was aerodynamically unstable and that was a big issue in the 1960s because the computer technology could not provide the necessary flight computers which would later allow aircraft such as the F-117 and B-2 Spirit to stay airborne.
The Nighthawk was sent to multiple combat operations, the first one was during the United States invasion of Panama in 1989, where 2 F-117A dropped bombs on the Rio Hato airfield. During the Gulf War in 1991, the Nighthawks were used to drop laser-guided bombs on targets in areas where optically aimed AAA and infrared SAMs were present as this was the biggest threat to Coalition aircraft, most operations were done at night to fully conceal the aircraft.
Only one F-117 was lost in combat and that was during Operation Allied Force in 27 March 1999, the Yugoslav troops spotted the Nighthawk on the radar when it’s bomb bays were open, the increase in radar signature allowed the SA-3 “Goa” SAM to lock and fire the missiles, the pilot ejected but the plane crashed at a slow speed and in an inverted position, the damage done to the airframe was low, after six hours, the pilot was rescued by an USAF pararescue team. The Serbs invited Russian personnel to inspect the remains of the aircraft, some say that the russian stealth technology had a significant advance after this incident.
Today, the F-117A Nighthawk is out of service but is still being maintained to keep it in condition to be recalled to service, some Nighthawks were spotted flying in the Nellis Bombing Range in 2015 and some of them are flown periodically.
Well, that’s it for this photo series, i guess we might see some Nighthawks in action again if some big conflict fires up and the needs for a precision bomber arises.
As always, if you have any suggestions or want to contribute for the next photo series, send them to me, i’ll be more than happy to upload them.
Having some fun with an update. The top illustration is one I did from 1996, for “Starship Troopers”, the Paul Verhoeven film. It’s the Tactical “Tac” fighter that you see with the fleet. So below is a restyle, but trying to stay true to the original design, which was based a bit on the F117 Nighthawk. The F117 was considered futuristic looking in ‘96. Just a challenge to myself to rewind 20 years….
- Like birds, they still need to learn how to fly. - Adult aircraft haven’t evolved, haven’t learned to teach their young to fly. They are thankful to trusted pilots for they are the ones helping them to get these children in the skies.
Flight (n.) A group of baby aircraft. Pilot (n.) Baby aircraft trainer. Mother avgas (n.) Produced by mother aircraft for feeding their young.