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USAF plans retirement ceremony to commemorate F-117

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by Derek Kaufman

88th Air Base Wing Public Affairs

 

3/5/2008 - WRIGHT-PATTERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Ohio -- A retirement ceremony to

honor the contributions of the F-117A Nighthawk, the world's first attack

aircraft to employ stealth technology, will take place here March 11.

 

The event will begin at 10 a.m. and will take place at Base Operations

Hangar 206N. An F-117A from the 49th Fighter Wing at Holloman AFB, N.M. will

be displayed and a flyover is scheduled to occur at 10:25 a.m. to conclude

the ceremony.

 

The Air Force decided to accelerate retirement of the venerable stealth

fighter fleet to free up funding for modernization. Ten aircraft were

retired in fiscal 2007 and 27 so far in 2008. Holloman AFB's remaining

aircraft will go into storage next month, said Diana Filliman, director of

the 650th Aeronautical Systems Squadron here, which provides F-117A program

management.

 

"With aging aircraft fleets and infrastructure, senior Air Force leadership

has made hard choices to pay for modernization of our overall aircraft

inventory," Ms. Filliman said.

 

A total of 59 production black jets were built. While not invisible to

radar, the Nighthawk's distinctive, faceted shape and a special low

observable coating combined to greatly reduce its radar cross section and

any adversary's ability to target it.

 

Although the strike aircraft has been in service for 27 years, its existence

was first publicly acknowledged only in November 1988, when the Air Force

released a grainy photograph of a Nighthawk in flight. Its first formal

public appearance came in April 1990 at Nellis AFB, Nev.

 

In the program's early years, Airmen from the 4450th Test Group assigned at

Nellis AFB would commute via contracted airlift to the Tonopah, Nev.,

airfield from which the F-117s flew almost exclusively at night.

 

Later, publicly acknowledging the fighter became a priority to enable

daylight flying, as well as exercise and deployment participation and full

integration into the combat air forces. Men and women associated with the

4450th Test Group continued to fly and maintain the F-117A at Tonopah as

members of the 37th Tactical Fighter Wing.

 

The F-117A fleet relocated to Holloman Air Force Base reflagged to the 49th

Fighter Wing in 1992, where the active fleet remains today. Beginning early

in 2009, Holloman AFB is slated to replace its retiring F-117s with two

squadrons of F-22 Raptors.

 

Combat debut for the F-117A came in December 1989, during Operational Just

Cause when Maj. Gregory Feest led a flight of two jets which dropped

laser-guided bombs to shock Panamanian Defense Forces in preparation for an

assault by U.S. Army Rangers.

 

Major Feest and the F-117A would return to combat in January 1991, when

Nighthawks opened Operation Desert Storm by destroying critical and highly

defended targets throughout Iraq and Kuwait. Despite thousands of

anti-aircraft guns and batteries of surface-to-air missiles, F-117s flew

with impunity over Baghdad, precisely striking targets with its payload of

two 2,000 lb. GBU-27 laser-guided weapons.

 

The jet's combination of stealth and precision made it the natural choice

for opening strikes over the former Yugoslavia during Operation Allied Force

in 1999 and again over Iraq during Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2003.

 

Of the 59 F-117s, seven were lost, including one in combat during Operation

Allied Force. All of the remaining jets will return to their original secure

home at Tonopah and placed in "recallable storage," Ms. Filliman said.

 

The F-117 production decision was made in 1978 with a contract awarded to

Lockheed Advanced Development Projects, the "Skunk Works." First flight over

Tonopah Test Range was on June 18, 1981, only 31 months after the full-scale

development decision, Filliman said.

 

"We are extremely proud of the long legacy of the F-117 and are committed to

retiring this first generation stealth fighter with honor and dignity,"

Filliman said. "The F-117 program created a revolution in military warfare

by incorporating low-observable technology into an operational aircraft."

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Wow, Hard to believe its time to put the Nighthawk out to pasture, I remember that first grainy picture they released. I've seen the F-117A at a couple airshows, very cool plane. I will miss the flybys at the show, it always amazed me how quiet it was, hardly heard anything until it was passed you.

 

I really like the Raptor, but it kinda seems like robbing peter to pay paul.

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Well, the F-117 has only been public for not even 20 years. It was late 88 when that crappy picture was released. Of course, the plane had already been in service for several years at that point.

The B-2, on the other hand, was brought out before it had made its first flight.

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Guest Bounder

sad to see it go (one minor thing though it was not a fighter.it was a Bomber) She accounted for many of UFO sightings.

Edited by Bounder

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