Lockheed F-117 Nighthawk
Lockheed F-117 Nighthawk is an American single-seat, twin-engine
stealth attack aircraft that was developed by Lockheed's secretive
Skunk Works division and operated by the United States Air Force
(USAF). The F-117 was based on the Have Blue technology demonstrator.
The Nighthawk was the first operational aircraft to be designed around
stealth technology. Its maiden flight took place in 1981, and the
aircraft achieved initial operating capability status in 1983. The
Nighthawk was shrouded in secrecy until it was revealed to the public
in 1988. Of the 64 F-117s built, 59 were production versions, with the
other five being demonstrators/prototypes.
The F-117 was widely publicized for its role in the Persian Gulf War
of 1991. Although it was commonly referred to as the "Stealth
Fighter", it was strictly an attack aircraft. F-117s took part in the
conflict in Yugoslavia, where one was shot down by a surface-to-air
missile (SAM) in 1999; it was the only Nighthawk to be lost in combat.
U.S. Air Force
U.S. Air Force retired the F-117 in 2008, primarily due to the
fielding of the F-22 Raptor.
1.1 Background and Have Blue
1.2 Senior Trend
3 Operational history
3.1 Combat loss
3.2 Later service and retirement
4.1 F-117N "Seahawk"
6 Notable accidents
7 Aircraft on display
7.1 United States
10 Notable appearances in media
11 See also
12.3 Further reading
13 External links
Background and Have Blue
Main article: Lockheed Have Blue
In 1964, Pyotr Ufimtsev, a Soviet 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 the radar return
from an object is related to its edge configuration, not its size.
Ufimtsev was extending theoretical work published by the German
physicist Arnold Sommerfeld. Ufimtsev demonstrated that he
could calculate the radar cross-section across a wing's surface and
along its edge. The obvious and logical conclusion was that even a
large aircraft could reduce its radar signature by exploiting this
principle. However, the resulting design would make the aircraft
aerodynamically unstable, and the state of computer technology in the
early 1960s could not provide the kinds of flight computers which
would later allow aircraft such as the F-117 and B-2 Spirit to stay
airborne. By the 1970s, when Lockheed analyst Denys Overholser found
Ufimtsev's paper, computers and software had advanced significantly,
and the stage was set for the development of a stealthy airplane.
F-117A painted in "Gray Dragon" experimental camouflage scheme
The F-117 was born after combat experience in the
Vietnam War when
increasingly sophisticated Soviet surface-to-air missiles (SAMs)
downed heavy bombers. It was a black project, an ultra-secret
program for much of its life: very few people in the Pentagon knew the
program even existed, until the F-117s were revealed to the public in
1988. The project began in 1975 with a model called the
"Hopeless Diamond" (a wordplay on the
Hope Diamond because of
its appearance). The following year, the Defense Advanced Research
Projects Agency (DARPA) issued Lockheed
Skunk Works a contract to
build and test two Stealth Strike Fighters, under the code name "Have
Blue". These subscale aircraft incorporated jet engines of the
Northrop T-38A, fly-by-wire systems of the F-16, landing gear of the
A-10, and environmental systems 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
The maiden flight 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. Much of that
increase was allocated towards the production of an operational
stealth aircraft, the Lockheed F-117A, under the program code name
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, in Burbank, California. The
program was led by Ben Rich, with Alan Brown as manager of the
project. Rich 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, 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
4450th Tactical Group
4450th Tactical Group stationed at Nellis AFB, Nevada
were tasked with the operational development of the early F-117, and
between 1981 (prior to the arrival of the first models) and 1989 they
used LTV A-7 Corsair IIs for training, to bring all pilots to a common
flight training baseline and later as chase planes for F-117A
The Air Force denied the existence of the aircraft until 10 November
1988, when Assistant Secretary of Defense
J. Daniel Howard displayed a
grainy photograph at a Pentagon press conference, disproving the many
inaccurate rumors about the shape of the secret "F-19". After the
announcement pilots could fly the F-117 during daytime and no longer
needed to be associated with the A-7, flying the T-38 supersonic
trainer for travel and training instead. In April 1990, two F-117
aircraft were flown into Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada, arriving
during daylight and publicly displayed to a crowd of tens of
Five Full Scale Development (FSD) aircraft were built, designated
"YF-117A". The last of 59 production F-117s were delivered on 3
F-117 flight demonstration
As the Air Force has stated, "Streamlined management by Aeronautical
Systems Center, Wright-Patterson AFB, Ohio, 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
The operational aircraft was officially designated "F-117A". Most
modern U.S. military aircraft use post-1962 designations in which the
designation "F" is usually an air-to-air fighter, "B" is usually a
bomber, "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 an
attack aircraft, so its "F" designation is inconsistent with the
DoD system. This is an inconsistency that has been repeatedly employed
U.S. Air Force
U.S. Air Force with several of its attack aircraft since the
late 1950s, including the
Republic F-105 Thunderchief
Republic F-105 Thunderchief and General
Dynamics F-111 Aardvark. 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.
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
F-19 designation 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 U.S. 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 fighters, most often
Century Series 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, also known as the "Red
Hats" or "Red Eagles", that often had flown expatriated MiG jet
fighters in the area, but there was no relationship to the call and
F-19 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
Front view of an F-117
When the Air Force first approached Lockheed with the stealth concept,
Skunk Works Director Kelly Johnson proposed a rounded design. He
believed smoothly blended shapes offered the best combination of speed
and stealth. However, his assistant, Ben Rich, showed that
faceted-angle surfaces would provide significant reduction in radar
signature, and the necessary aerodynamic control could be provided
with computer units. A May 1975
Skunk Works report, “Progress Report
No. 2, High Stealth Conceptual Studies,” showed the rounded concept,
which was rejected in favor of the flat-sided approach.
The resulting unusual design surprised and puzzled experienced pilots;
Royal Air Force
Royal Air Force pilot, who flew it as an exchange officer while it
was still a secret project, stated that when he first saw a photograph
of the F-117, he "promptly giggled and thought to [himself] 'this
clearly can't fly'". Early stealth aircraft were designed with a
focus on minimal radar cross-section (RCS) rather than aerodynamic
performance. Highly-stealthy aircraft like the F-117 Nighthawk are
aerodynamically unstable in all three aircraft principal axes and
require constant flight corrections from a fly-by-wire (FBW) flight
system to maintain controlled flight. It 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. It is air refuelable and features a
V-tail. The maximum speed is 623 miles per hour (1,003 km/h) at
high altitude, the max rate of climb is 2,820 feet (860 m) per
minute, and service ceiling is 43,000 to 45,000 feet (13,000 to
14,000 m). The cockpit was quite spacious, with ergonomic
displays and controls, but the field of view was somewhat obstructed
with a large blind spot to the rear.
It has quadruple-redundant fly-by-wire flight controls. To lower
development costs, the avionics, fly-by-wire systems, and other parts
were 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 aircraft is equipped with sophisticated navigation and attack
systems integrated into a digital avionics suite. It navigates
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 rangefinder/laser designator that finds the range and designates
targets for laser-guided bombs. The F-117A's split internal bay can
carry 5,000 pounds (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.
Main article: Stealth aircraft
The F-117 has a
Radar cross-section of about 0.001 m2
(0.0108 sq ft). Among the penalties for stealth are
lower engine 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. With these design
considerations and no afterburner, the F-117 is limited to subsonic
The F-117A carries no radar, which lowers emissions and cross-section,
and whether it carries any radar detection equipment is
The F-117A's faceted shape (made from 2-dimensional flat surfaces)
resulted from the limitations of the 1970s-era computer technology
used to calculate its radar cross-section. Later supercomputers made
it possible for subsequent aircraft like the
B-2 bomber to use curved
surfaces while maintaining stealth, through the use of far more
computational resources to perform the additional calculations.
An exhaust plume contributes a significant infrared signature. The
F-117 reduces IR signature with a non-circular tail pipe (a slit
shape) to minimize the exhaust cross-sectional volume and maximize the
mixing of hot exhaust with cool ambient air. The F-117 lacks
afterburners, because the hot exhaust would increase the infrared
signature, and breaking the sound barrier would produce an obvious
sonic boom, as well as surface heating of the aircraft skin which also
increases the infrared footprint. As a result, its performance in air
combat maneuvering required in a dogfight would never match that of a
dedicated fighter aircraft. This was unimportant in the case of this
aircraft since it was designed to be a bomber.
Passive (multistatic) radar, bistatic radar and especially
multistatic radar systems detect some stealth aircraft better than
conventional monostatic radars, since first-generation stealth
technology (such as the F-117) reflects energy away from the
transmitter's line of sight, effectively increasing the radar cross
section (RCS) in other directions, which the passive radars monitor.
An F-117 conducts a live exercise bombing run using GBU-27
During the program's early years, from 1984 to mid-1992, the F-117A
fleet was based at
Tonopah Test Range
Tonopah Test Range Airport, Nevada, where it served
under the 4450th Tactical Group. Because the F-117 was classified
during this time, the unit was officially located at Nellis Air Force
Base, Nevada, and equipped with
A-7 Corsair II
A-7 Corsair II aircraft. All military
personnel were permanently assigned to Nellis AFB, and most personnel
and their families lived in Las Vegas. This required commercial air
and trucking to transport personnel between Las Vegas and Tonopah each
week. 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, under the command of the 49th Fighter Wing. This
move also eliminated the
Key Air and
American Trans Air
American Trans Air contract
flights to Tonopah, which flew 22,000 passenger trips on 300 flights
from Nellis to Tonopah per month.
The F-117 reached initial operating capability status in 1983. The
Nighthawk's pilots called themselves "Bandits". Each of the 558 Air
Force pilots who have flown the F-117 has 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
United States invasion of Panama
United States invasion of Panama in 1989. During that
invasion two F-117A Nighthawks dropped two bombs on Rio Hato airfield.
Gulf War in 1991, the F-117 flew approximately 1,300
sorties and scored direct hits on 1,600 high-value targets in Iraq
over 6,905 flight hours. Leaflet drops on Iraqi forces displayed
the F-117 destroying ground targets and warned "Escape now and save
yourselves". Initial claims of its effectiveness were later found
to be overstated. For instance it was claimed that the F-117 made up
2.5% of Coalition tactical aircraft in Iraq and they attacked more
than 40% of the strategic targets; this ignored the fact that only
229 Coalition aircraft could drop and designate laser-guided bombs of
which 36 F-117 represented 15.7%, and only the USAF had the I-2000
bombs intended for hardened targets, so the F-117 represented 32% of
all coalition aircraft that could deliver such bombs. Initial
reports of F-117s hitting 80% of their targets were later scaled back
to "41–60%". On the first night, they failed to hit 40% of their
assigned air-defense targets, including the Air Defense Operations
Center in Baghdad, and 8 such targets remained functional out of 10
that could be assessed. In their Desert Storm white paper, the
USAF claimed that "the F-117 was the only airplane that the planners
dared risk over downtown Baghdad" and that this area was particularly
well defended. In fact, most of the air defenses were on the
outskirts of the city and many other aircraft hit targets in the
downtown area, with minimal casualties when they attacked at night
like the F-117. This meant they avoided the optically aimed AAA
and infra-red SAMs which were the biggest threat to Coalition
The aircraft was operated in secret from Tonopah for almost a decade,
but after the
Gulf War the aircraft moved to Holloman in 1992 –
however its integration with the USAF's non-stealth "iron jets"
occurred slowly. As one senior F-117A pilot later said: Because of
ongoing secrecy others continued to see the aircraft as "none of their
business, a stand-alone system". The F-117A and the men and women
49th Fighter Wing
49th Fighter Wing were deployed to Southwest Asia on multiple
occasions. On their first deployment, with the aid of aerial
refueling, pilots flew non-stop from Holloman to Kuwait, a flight of
approximately 18.5 hours – a record for single-seat fighters that
Main article: 1999 F-117A shootdown
One F-117 (AF ser. no. 82-0806) was lost to enemy action. It was
downed during a mission against the Army of Yugoslavia on 27 March
1999, during Operation Allied Force. At approximately 8:15 pm
local time, the aircraft was acquired by a fire control radar at a
distance of 13 km and an altitude of 8 km: SA-3s were then
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 the 3rd Battalion of the 250th Air Defence Missile
Brigade under the command of Colonel Zoltán Dani. 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
source states one of the missiles detonated by its proximity fuze near
the F-117. 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 also stated that he oversaw the modification of his
targeting radar to improve its detection capability.
Canopy of F-117 shot down in
Serbia in March 1999 at the Museum of
Aviation in Belgrade
After the explosion, the aircraft became uncontrollable, forcing the
pilot to eject. The pilot was recovered six hours later by a
United States Air Force
United States Air Force Pararescue team. Photos show that the
aircraft struck the ground at low speed in an inverted position, and
that the airframe remained relatively intact. The Serbs 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. Though the name "Capt Ken 'Wiz' Dwelle" was
painted on the canopy, it was revealed in 2007 that the pilot was Lt.
Col. Dale Zelko. The stealth technology from the downed F-117
may have been acquired by Russia and China.
Some American sources state that a second F-117A was damaged during
the same campaign, allegedly on 30 April 1999; the aircraft
returned to base, but it supposedly never flew again.
Later service and retirement
Use of the aircraft as part of
Operation Allied Force
Operation Allied Force continued, and
it was later used in the Operation Enduring Freedom in 2001 and
Operation Iraqi Freedom
Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2003. It was operated by the U.S. Air
The loss in
Serbia caused the USAF to create a subsection of their
existing weapons school to improve tactics. More training was done
with other units, and the F-117A began to participate in Red Flag
exercises. 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.
Other weapon systems began to take on the F-117's roles, such as the
F-22 Raptor gaining ability to drop guided bombs. By 2005, the
aircraft was used only for certain missions, such as if a pilot needed
to verify that the correct target had been hit, or when minimal
collateral damage was vital.
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-22s. PBD 720 called for 10
F-117s to be retired in FY2007 and the remaining 42 in FY2008, stating
that other Air Force planes and missiles could stealthily deliver
precision ordnance, including the B-2 Spirit, F-22 and JASSM. The
planned introduction of the multirole F-35 Lightning II also
contributed to the retirement decision.
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 L. 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
A pair of specially painted F-117 Nighthawks sporting a United States
flag theme on their bellies fly off from their last refueling by the
Ohio Air National Guard's 121st Air Refueling Wing.
Unlike most other Air Force aircraft that are retired to Davis-Monthan
AFB for scrapping, or dispersal to museums, most of the F-117s were
placed in "Type 1000" storage in their original hangars at the
Tonopah Test Range
Tonopah Test Range Airport. 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 Tonopah 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 August, two were
remaining. The last F-117 (AF Serial No. 86-0831) left Palmdale to fly
to Tonopah on 11 August 2008. With the last aircraft retired,
the 410th was inactivated in a ceremony on 1 August 2008.
Five aircraft were placed in museums, including the first four
YF-117As and some remains of the F-117 shot down over Serbia. Through
2009, one F-117 has been scrapped. F-117 AF Serial No. 79-0784 was
scrapped at the Palmdale test facility on 26 April 2008. It 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. F-117s have been spotted flying in the Nellis Bombing
Range as recently as July 2015. Some of the aircraft are
Congress had declared that all F-117s mothballed from 30 September
2006 onwards to be maintained "in a condition that would allow recall
of that aircraft to future service" as part of the 2007 National
Defense Authorization Act. By April 2016, lawmakers appeared ready to
"remove the requirement that certain F-117 aircraft be maintained in a
condition that would allow recall of those aircraft to future
service," which would move them from storage to the aerospace
maintenance and regeneration yard in Arizona to be scavenged for
hard-to-find parts, or completely disassembled.
On 11 September 2017, it was reported that in accordance with the
National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2017, signed into
law on 23 December 2016, "the Air Force will remove four F-117s every
year to fully divest them — a process known as demilitarizing
United States Navy
United States Navy tested the F-117 in 1984 but determined it was
not suitable for carrier use. In the early 1990s, Lockheed
proposed an upgraded, carrier-capable variant of the F-117 dubbed the
"Seahawk" to the 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 turbofans instead of the older General Electric F404s.
The aircraft would be optionally fitted with hardpoints, allowing for
an additional 8,000 lb (3,600 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 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. 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 the USAF and the Royal Air Force. Several
RAF exchange officers flew the F-117 during its service, two RAF
pilots formally evaluated the aircraft in 1986 as a reward for British
help with the American bombing of Libya that year, and the British
declined an offer during the
Reagan administration to purchase the
aircraft. This renewed F-117N proposal was also known as the
A/F-117X. Neither the F-117N nor the F-117B were ordered.
22 F-117A aircraft from the 37th Tactical Fighter Wing at Langley AFB,
Virginia, prior to being deployed to Saudi Arabia for Operation Desert
United States Air Force
Tactical Air Command
4450th Tactical Group
4450th Tactical Group – Tonopah Test Range, Nevada
4450th Tactical Squadron (1981–1989)
4451st Tactical Squadron (1981–1989)
4453rd Test and Evaluation Squadron (1985–1989)
37th Tactical Fighter Wing/Fighter Wing – Tonopah Test Range
415th Tactical Fighter Squadron
415th Tactical Fighter Squadron (1989–1992)
416th Tactical Fighter Squadron (1989–1992)
417th Tactical Fighter Training Squadron (1989–1992)
Air Combat Command
49th Fighter Wing
49th Fighter Wing – Holloman AFB, New Mexico
7th Fighter Squadron
7th Fighter Squadron (1992–2006)
8th Fighter Squadron
8th Fighter Squadron (1992–2008)
9th Fighter Squadron
9th Fighter Squadron (1993–2008)
Air Force Flight Test Center
412th Test Wing
412th Test Wing – Edwards AFB, California
410th Flight Test Squadron
410th Flight Test Squadron (1993–2008)
F-117, Air Force 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, which differed from 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, AF Ser. No. 80-0792, was lost on 11 July 1986 near Bakersfield,
California. 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
F-117, AF Ser. No. 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, just east of
Tonopah. The pilot, Maj Michael C. Stewart, was killed. The cause was
determined to be spatial disorientation.
F-117, AF Ser. No. 82-0801, Perpetrator was lost on 4 August 1992. The
aircraft crashed approximately eight miles northeast of Holloman Air
Force Base, 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, AF Ser. No. 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. The pilot, Capt Kenneth Levens, was killed.
The cause was determined to be spatial disorientation following
F-117, AF Ser. No. 81-0793, was lost on 14 September 1997 during an
Martin State Airport
Martin State Airport /
Warfield Air National Guard Base
Warfield Air National Guard Base in
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
79-10781 Scorpion 2 at the National Museum of the United States Air
79-10780 Scorpion 1 – on pedestal display on Nellis Boulevard, at
the entrance to Nellis Air Force Base,
115°3′33.28″W / 36.2272222°N 115.0592444°W /
36.2272222; -115.0592444). It was put in place 16 May 1992, the first
F-117 to be made a gate guardian.
79-10781 Scorpion 2 – National Museum of the United States Air Force
Wright-Patterson Air Force Base
Wright-Patterson Air Force Base outside Dayton, Ohio. It was
delivered to the museum on 17 July 1991.
79-10782 Scorpion 3 – Holloman Air Force Base, New Mexico. It was
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
on 14 December 1983, the first semi-public unveiling of the aircraft.
It was placed on display at Holloman AFB on 5 April 2008.[citation
79-10783 Scorpion 4 – It had been previously on display at the
Blackbird Airpark Museum at Air Force Plant 42, Palmdale, California.
In June 2012, Scorpion 4 was transported from Blackbird Airpark to
Edwards AFB for restoration work; it is planned for the aircraft to be
displayed at the
Air Force Flight Test Center
Air Force Flight Test Center Museum.
82-0806 Something Wicked – shot down over Serbia; the remains are
displayed at the
Museum of Aviation in Belgrade
Museum of Aviation in Belgrade close to Belgrade
Nikola Tesla Airport.
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.
However, F-117 pilots have stated 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 Arabic for "Ghost".
Schematic diagram and size comparison of Lockheed F-117A
Data from USAF National Museum, U.S. Air Force
Length: 65 ft 11 in (20.09 m)
Wingspan: 43 ft 4 in (13.21 m)
Height: 12 ft 9.5 in (3.90 m)
Wing area: 780 ft² (72.5 m²)
Empty weight: 29,500 lb (13,380 kg)
Loaded weight: 52,500 lb (23,800 kg)
Powerplant: 2 × General Electric F404-F1D2 turbofans, 10,600 lbf
(48.0 kN) each
Maximum speed: Mach 0.92 (617 mph, 993 km/h)
Cruise speed: Mach 0.92
Range: 930 nmi (1720 km)
Service ceiling: 45,000 ft (13,716 m)
Wing loading: 67.3 lb/ft² (329 kg/m²)
2 × internal weapons bays with one hardpoint each (total of two
weapons) equipped to carry:
GBU-10 Paveway II laser-guided bomb with 2,000 lb Mk84
BLU-109 or BLU-116 Penetrator warhead
GBU-12 Paveway II laser-guided bomb with 500 lb Mk82
GBU-27 Paveway III laser-guided bomb with 2,000 lb Mk84
BLU-109 or BLU-116 Penetrator warhead
GPS guided munition with 2,000 lb Mk84 blast-frag or
BLU-109 Penetrator warhead
B61 nuclear bomb
Notable appearances in media
Omaha Nighthawks professional American football team used the
F-117 Nighthawk as its logo.
United States Air Force
United States Air Force portal
Lockheed Have Blue
Aircraft of comparable role, configuration and era
List of Lockheed aircraft
List of military aircraft of the United States
^ a b Eden 2004, p. 240.
^ a b c d e f Lockheed F-117A Nighthawk. National Museum of the United
States Air Force. Retrieved: 16 October 2016
^ a b Pae, Peter. "Stealth fighters fly off the radar". Los Angeles
Times, 23 April 2008. Retrieved 27 April 2008.
^ Aronstein and Piccirillo 1997, p. 267.
^ Ufimtsev, P.Ya. "Method of Edge Waves in the Physical Theory of
Diffraction." oai.dtic.mil. Retrieved 12 June 2010
^ a b Day, Dwayne A. "Stealth Technology." Archived 18 January 2009 at
the Wayback Machine. Centennial of Flight, 2003. Retrieved 13 November
^ UCI Ufimtsev, Pyotr Ya. "Method of Edge Waves in the Physical Theory
of Diffraction." Journal of the Moscow Institute for Radio
^ Ireton, Major Colin T. "Filling the Stealth Gap." Air and Space
Power Journal, Fall 2006
^ a b Bartholomew Hott; George E. Pollock, "The Advent, Evolution, and
New Horizons of United States Stealth Aircraft", ics.purdue.edu,
archived from the original on 16 February 2003, retrieved 12 June
^ a b "F-117A Nighthawk". Air-Attack.com. Archived from the original
on 28 February 2010. Retrieved 18 July 2017.
^ Cunningham, Jim (Fall 1991). "Cracks in the Black Dike, Secrecy, the
Media and the F-117A". Air & Space Power Journal. United States
Air Force. Archived from the original on 6 March 2008. Retrieved 19
^ "Top Gun – the F-117 Stealth Fighter." BBC. Retrieved: 10 May 2011
^ Rich 1994, pp. 26–27
^ "F-117 History" Archived 27 January 2012 at the Wayback Machine..
F-117 Stealth Fighter Association. Retrieved 20 January 2007
^ a b c Goodall 1992, p. 19
^ Eden 2004, pp. 242–243
^ Goodall 1992, p. 24.
^ F-117A "Senior Trend." f-117a.com. Retrieved 12 June 2010
^ Rich 1994, p. 71
^ "YouTube". www.youtube.com.
^ "The Secrets of Stealth". Archived 3 June 2007 at the Wayback
Machine. Discovery Military Channel
^ Goodall 1992, p. 27
^ a b Goodall 1992, p. 29
^ Holder, Bill; Wallace, Mike (2000). Lockheed F-117 Nighthawk: An
Illustrated History of the Stealth Fighter. Atglen, PA: Schiffer
Publishing, Ltd. ISBN 978-0-7643-0067-7.
^ a b c d Crickmore, Paul (2003). Combat Legend: F-117 Nighthawk.
Airlife. pp. 33, 48–49, 60. ISBN 1 84037 394 6.
^ Gregos, J. "First Public Display of the F-117 at
Nellis AFB April
21, 1990." dreamlandresort.com. Retrieved: 27 April 2012.
^ "DOD 4120.15-L – Addendum." United States Department of Defense,
December 2007. Retrieved 12 June 2010
^ Donald 2003, p. 98
^ DOD 4120.15-L: Model Designation of Military Aerospace Vehicles.
(PDF), United States Department of Defense, 12 May 2004, p. 38,
archived from the original (PDF) on 14 November 2004, retrieved 17
^ "Stealth and Beyond: Air Stealth (TV-series)". Archived 11 December
2006 at the Wayback Machine. The History Channel, 2006. Retrieved 19
^ Grier. Peter. "Constant Peg." airforce-magazine.com, Vol. 90, no. 4,
April 2007. Retrieved 10 May 2011
^ Peter W. Merlin (2011). Images of Aviation: Area 51. Boston: Arcadia
Publishing. p. 32. ISBN 978-0-7385-7620-6.
^ Miller 1990
^ Slattery, Chad. "Secrets of the
Skunk Works – 'Little Harvey,
Concept B'". Air & Space/Smithsonian.
^ Crickmore, Paul and Alison J. (2003) . Nighthawk F-117 Stealth
Fighter. Zenith Imprint. pp. 85–86.
^ Rich and Janos, Skunk Works, pp. 30–31, 46.
^ Dorr, Robert F. (2016). Air Combat: A History of Fighter Pilots.
Berkley. p. 315. ISBN 978-0-425-21170-0
^ Nijboer, Donald (2016). Fighting Cockpits: In the Pilot's Seat of
Great Military Aircraft from World War I to Today, p. 210. Zenith
Press. ISBN 978-0-7603-4956-4.
^ Richardson 2001, p. 57
^ a b c d Sweetman, Bill. "Unconventional Weapon." Air & Space,
December 2007/January 2008. Retrieved 1 July 2011
^ Rich 1994, p. 21
Radar Sets". Radartutorial.eu. Retrieved 16 December
^ a b Topolsky, Joshua. "Air Force's stealth fighters making final
flights." CNN.com, 11 March 2008. Retrieved 11 March 2009
^ Crocker 2006, p. 382
^ "Weapons: F-117A Stealth." PBS Frontline. Retrieved 12 June 2010
^ Schmitt, Eric. "Navy Looks On with Envy at Air Force Stealth
Display." The New York Times, 17 June 1991. Retrieved 24 April 2010
^ "OPERATION DESERT STORM Evaluation of the Air Campaign
GAO/NSIAD-97-134" (PDF). General Accounting Office. 12 June 1997.
^ GAO/NSIAD-97-134 p132
^ GAO/NSIAD-97-134 pp. 136–37
^ a b GAO/NSIAD-97-134 pp. 137–38. Dozens of F-16s were routinely
tasked to attack Baghdad in the first few days of the war.
^ GAO/NSIAD-97-134 p. 105
^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q Logan, Don. Lockheed F-117
Nighthawks: A Stealth Fighter Roll Call. Atglen, Pennsylvania:
Schiffer Publishing, 2009.
ISBN 978-0-7643-3242-5.[page needed]
^ "How to Take Down an F-117." Strategy Page, 21 November 2005.
Retrieved 12 June 2010
^ a b "Serb discusses 1999 downing of stealth." USAToday.com, 26
October 2005. Retrieved 1 July 2009
^ Dsouza, Larkins. "Who shot down F-117?" Defence Aviation, 8 February
2007. Retrieved 1 August 2011
^ "Colonel Dani." Defence Aviation, 8 February 2007. Retrieved 1
^ Whitcomb, Darrel. "The Night They Saved Vega 31". airforcemag.com.
Air Force Association. Archived from the original on 22 April 2013.
Retrieved 12 July 2014.
^ Smith, Charles R. "Russia Offers India $8 billion Weapons
Deal". NewsMax.com 12 December 2001. Retrieved 20 January 2007
^ Dorr, Robert F. "USAF Fighter Force at 60". AirForces Monthly
magazine, October 2007
^ "Pilot recognizes crashed F-117A." usatoday.com. Retrieved 24 April
^ Stojanovic, Dusan (23 January 2011). "China's new stealth fighter
may use U.S. technology". China Digital Times.
^ "Damage said attributed to full moon." Nl.newsbank.com, 6 May 1999.
Retrieved 19 February 2012
^ Riccioni, Col. Everest E. "Description of our Failing Defence
Acquisition System." Project on government oversight, 8 March 2005.
Quote: "This event, which occurred during the Kosovo conflict on 27
March, was a major blow to the US Air Force. The aircraft was special:
an F-117 Nighthawk stealth bomber that should have been all but
invisible to the Serbian air defences. And this certainly wasn't a
fluke—a few nights later, Serb missiles damaged a second F-117."
^ Nixon, Mark. "Gallant Knights, MiG-29 in Action during Allied
Force." AirForces Monthly magazine, January 2002
^ Miller, Jay.
Lockheed Martin F/A-22 Raptor, Stealth Fighter, p. 44.
Aerofax, 2005. ISBN 1-85780-158-X
^ Tiron, Roxana. "
New Mexico Air Force base at crossroads." Archived 1
June 2017 at the Wayback Machine. The Hill, 22 February 2006.
Retrieved 11 March 2009
^ "Program Budget Decision 720." Department of Defense
^ Shea, Christopher. "Now you see it..." Boston Globe, 4 February
2007. Retrieved 11 March 2009
^ "F-117 pilot school closes". airforcetimes.com. Gannett. Archived
from the original on 17 July 2012. Retrieved 20 January 2007.
^ Bates, Staff Sergeant Matthew. "F-117: A long, storied history that
is about to end." US Air Force, 28 October 2006
^ a b Barrier, Terri. "F-117A retirement bittersweet occasion."
Aerotech News and Review, 16 March 2007
^ According to a statement by the United States Air Force, "Aircraft
in Type-1000 storage are to be maintained until recalled to active
service, should the need arise. Type 1000 aircraft are termed
inviolate, meaning they have a high potential to return to flying
status and no parts may be removed from them. These aircraft are
're-preserved' every four years."
^ Radecki, Alan. "F-117's final formation fling". Flight
International, 8 August 2008. Retrieved 11 March 2009
^ "410th FLTS 'Baja Scorpions' closes historic chapter." Archived 3
March 2012 at the Wayback Machine. U.S. Air Force, Edwards AFB, 5
^ Axe, David. "Yep, F-117 Stealth Fighters Are Still Flying in 2015".
War Is Boring. Retrieved 24 August 2015.
^ "F-117 Flying 2013" 1 May 2013. Retrieved 21 December 2013
^ "Why Is The 'Retired' F-117 Nighthawk Still Flying?".
Foxtrotalpha.jalopnik.com. 16 March 2014. Retrieved 21 April
^  A Real Retirement for the Nighthawk, Air Force Magazine
^ Congress appears ready to let the Lockheed F-117A Nighthawk go –
Flightglobal.com, 27 April 2016.
^ Pawlyk, Oriana (11 September 2017). "Retired but Still Flying".
Defensetech.org. Retrieved 23 September 2017.
^ a b "Navy still not interested in F-117N; JAST plan due tomorrow."
Aerospace Daily, Vol. 167, No. 52, 1993, p. 426
^ "Variant Aircraft." f-117a.com, 14 July 2003. Retrieved 7 November
^ a b Morocco, John D. "Lockheed Returns to Navy with new F-117N
Design." Aviation Week & Space Technology, Vol. 140, No. 10, 1994,
Lockheed Martin targets RAF and USN for F-117." Flight
International, 28 June 1995.
^ Rogoway, Tyler (3 January 2017). "Reagan Invited Thatcher To Join
The Top Secret F-117 Program". The Drive.
Skunk Works official touts A/F-117X as Navy stealth option."
Aerospace Daily, Vol. 171, No. 56, 1994, p. 446
^ "F-117 History." globalsecurity.org. Retrieved: 22 September 2010
^ "Holloman Restores F-117 Nighthawk". Holloman Air Force Base.
Retrieved 31 March 2017.
^ "F-117 Nighthawk/79-10781." National Museum of the USAF. Retrieved:
19 September 2016.
^ "One of only four existing F-117s returns to Edwards." Archived 22
April 2014 at the Wayback Machine. Edwards Air Force Base. 13 June
^ Daly, M. "Tape Reveals Stealth of Our Ukrainian Pal." Daily News.
Retrieved 2 January 2008. Archived 4 June 2011 at the Wayback Machine.
^ "DOD 4120.15-L: Model Designation of Military Aerospace Vehicles",
p. 18. United States Department of Defense, 12 May 2004. Retrieved 20
^ Rhodes, Jeffrey P. "The Black Jet." Air Force Magazine, Air Force
Association, Volume 73, Issue 7, July 1990. Retrieved 20 January 2007
^ Gresham, John D. "
Gulf War 20th: Emerging from the Shadows."
defensemedianetwork.com, 21 January 2011. Retrieved 1 August 2011
^ "F-117A Nighthawk."
U.S. Air Force
U.S. Air Force history
^ "F-117A Nighthawk." Federation of American Scientists. Retrieved: 13
Omaha Nighthawks official page." Archived 5 May 2010 at the Wayback
Machine. ufl-football.com. Retrieved 6 June 2010
Donald, David (ed.). Black Jets: The Development and Operation of
America's Most Secret Warplanes. Norwalk, CT: AIRtime Publishing Inc.,
2003. ISBN 1-880588-67-6.
Eden, Paul (ed.). The Encyclopedia of Modern Military Aircraft.
London, UK: Amber Books, 2004. ISBN 1-904687-84-9.
Goodall, James C. "The Lockheed F-117A Stealth Fighter". America's
Stealth Fighters and Bombers: B-2, F-117, YF-22 and YF-23. St. Paul,
MN: Motorbooks International, 1992. ISBN 0-87938-609-6.
Miller, Jay. Lockheed F-117 Stealth Fighter. Arlington, TX: Aerofax
Extra, 1990. ISBN 0-942548-48-5.
Rich, Ben. Skunk Works. New York, NY: Back Bay Books, 1994.
Richardson, Doug. Stealth Warplanes. New York, NY: Salamander Books
Ltd, 2001. ISBN 0-7603-1051-3.
Aronstein, David C. and Albert C. Piccirillo. HAVE BLUE and the
F-117A. Reston, VA: AIAA, 1997. ISBN 1-56347-245-7.
Crickmore, Paul F. and Alison J. Nighthawk F-117 Stealth Fighter. St.
Paul, Minnesota: Motorbooks, 2003. ISBN 0-7603-1512-4.
Crocker, H.W. III. Don't Tread on Me. New York, NY: Crown Forum, 2006.
Fisk, Robert. The Great War for Civilisation: The Conquest of the
Middle East. New York: Alfred Knopf, 2006.
Grant, R.G. and John R. Dailey. Flight: 100 Years of Aviation. Harlow,
Essex: DK Adult, 2007. ISBN 978-0-7566-1902-2.
Jenkins, Dennis R. and Tony R. Landis. Experimental & Prototype
U.S. Air Force
U.S. Air Force Jet Fighters. North Branch, Minnesota: Specialty Press,
2008. ISBN 978-1-58007-111-6.
Logan, Don. Lockheed F-117 Nighthawks: A Stealth Fighter Roll Call.
Atglen, Pennsylvania: Schiffer Publishing, 2009.
Sun, Andt. F-117A Stealth Fighter. Hong Kong: Concord Publications
Co., 1990. ISBN 962-361-017-3.
Winchester, Jim (ed.). "Lockheed F-117". Modern Military Aircraft
(Aviation Factfile). Rochester, Kent, UK: Grange Books plc, 2004.
The World's Great Stealth and Reconnaissance Aircraft. New York:
Smithmark Publishing, 1991. ISBN 0-8317-9558-1.
Wikimedia Commons has media related to F-117 Nighthawk.
Lockheed F-117A Nighthawk. National Museum of the United States Air
49th Fighter Wing
49th Fighter Wing at Holloman Air Force Base
F-117A.com – The "Black Jet" website (a comprehensive site)
F-117 article and Stealth article on Centennial of Flight web site
F-117A Nighthawk page on AirAttack.com
F-117A Nighthawk page on FAS.org
Lockheed F-117 Stealth Fighter on Vectorsite.net
"Filling the Stealth Gap," in Air and Space Power Journal Fall 2006
The Advent, Evolution, and New Horizons of United States Stealth
"The Secrets of Stealth" on Discovery Military Channel
Radar Plots on acig.org
CNN – NATO air attack shifts, aims at violence inside Kosovo – 27
Google Maps directory of all surviving F-117s on public display
(in German) Austrian article about interception of F-117
Russians admit testing F-117 lost in Yugoslavia, 2001 Flight Global
Lockheed Martin aircraft and spacecraft
Model 10 Electra family
L-188 Electra family
Shooting Star family
Desert Hawk III
United States tri-service fighter aircraft designations post-1962
F-24 to F-341
1 Not assigned
See also: "F-19" • F-117 • Pre-1962 list