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F-117 Mysterious Flights

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F-117 Mysterious Flights. Is the Riddle Solved? Maybe or maybe not.

Last month we published some photographs, shot around Tonopah Test Range, that proved that one or more F-117 Nighthawk stealth jets are still flying 6 years after being officially retired by the U.S. Air Force.

The story created a lot of hype and many speculations regarding the reason behind the mysterious activity.

We mentioned several different explainations behind the flights (in plain daylight), ranging from tests of new radar systems, which would be capable of detecting stealthy aircraft, to modified UCAV versions, through tests of new weapons, up to a brave hypothesis of getting the Nighthawks modernized and operational again.

Apparently, the reason seems to be not so exciting. Defense News’s Aaron Mehta has obtained an official explanation from the U.S. Air Force.

According to the USAF, the jet is kept in a “Type 1000” storage, which means that the type is to be maintained until called into active service.

The aircraft are re-preserved in 4 year periods and due to the type of storage, they are to be capable of being brought back into operation within the period of 30-120 days.

This version of the story is confirmed by Dziennik Zbrojny, one of the leading Polish defense outlets which quotes a USAF spokesperson as well.

What is the reason for the flights then? Well, flights are a form of a routine check, which ensures that the F-117 is still airworthy.

The Nighthawk fleet has been retired back in 2008 and maintained inside the Tonopah Test Range Hangars.

Desert conditions of Nevada are beneficial for maintaining the stealth jets in pristine conditions (due to the low level of humidity and hence, lower probability of corrosion). Since, according to the source quoted by Defense News, maintaining the jets at AMARC, at Davis-Monthan AFB, would be less cost-effective (means of secure storage would have to be implemented), the Tonopah infrastructure has been used instead.

Reasonable.

However we can’t but notice that it is at least weird that a somehow obsolete fleet (the F-117 was the first stealth jet designed back in the 1970s and inducted into active service in 1983) is kept in operational status by flying a handful of planes every now and then. The Air Force is struggling to retire some active, possibly hard-to-replace aircraft (as the A-10 Thunderbolt) because they are not suitable to modern scenarios and to save money: why would they spend money to keep the aircrews proficient and the fascinating but old aircraft in flyable conditions? How would a few Black Jets be employed in a modern scenario considering their rather archaic weapons control system?

We don’t want to fuel conspiracy theories but, as suggested by our friends at lazygranch.com, after the retirement, the F-117 were sometimes spotted over the TTR during test flights which involved the MIT Gulfstream N105TB: if confirmed this joint activity might point towards something different than a routine airworthiness check sortie.

Ok, as said, the story of the storage 1000 is reasonable, but a few questions are yet to be answered.

 

 

http://theaviationist.com/2014/11/11/reason-behind-f-117-flights/

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Captured aliens are being trained to fly them in times of need..

serious note....if you have a vintage car...it seizes up if you dont use it now and again...maybe thats what they are doing...keeping them 100% ready if needed.

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Maybe there is an other reason, which has to do with pilots. Perhaps the Pentagon wants to have a fistfull pilots which have enough flight hours to be allowed to fly this plane. It would be bad if you still have flightworthy planes, but no pilot who could operate them.

An other reason could be similar with the operation of MiG-23 in the soviet forces in Germany in the late 80th and early 90th. A lot of high ranking staff officers were pilots of the MiG-23. There was the rule, that a pilot must have some flight hours per year to keep his pilotwings. To give them the chance to fly without retraining them to a modern fighter type the soviets operated some MiG-23s, so that the staff officers could keep their pilotwings. Perhaps a similar thing is happen now in the USA.

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I know T-38s are often used for this purpose, and in the case of the 117 specifically (there are shots of the all-black 38s around), to keep the pilots proficient without wearing out the birds themselves.

 

I'm sure it's a case of cycling them through to keep them airworthy until such time as the cost to do so outstrips its "insurance policy" value. As for flying with other planes, that also makes a lot of sense. If you have to fly this thing anyway to keep it working, and someone else needs to fly a mission with a plane for whatever reason, why not combine the two? Why does the airworthiness check ride have to be a boring circuit of the range? Instead of detailing a second plane like an F-16 or something, let the black jet do it. If it's a test involving RCS, it's 100x more logical than using a B-2 or F-22 or F-35.

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