|The F-117A Nighthawk is the
operational aircraft designed to exploit low-observable stealth
technology. This precision-strike aircraft penetrates high-threat
airspace and uses laser-guided weapons against critical targets.
The unique design of the single-seat F-117A provides exceptional combat
capabilities. About the size of an F-15 Eagle, the twin-engine aircraft
is powered by two General Electric F404 turbofan engines and has
quadruple redundant fly-by-wire flight controls. Air refuelable, it
supports worldwide commitments and adds to the deterrent strength of
U.S. military forces.
The F-117A can employ a variety of weapons and is equipped with
sophisticated navigation and attack systems integrated into a digital
avionics suite that increases mission effectiveness and reduces pilot
workload. Detailed planning for missions into highly defended target
areas is accomplished by an automated mission planning system
developed, specifically, to take advantage of the unique capabilities
of the F-117A.
The F-117A production decision was made in 1978 with a contract awarded
to Lockheed Advanced Development Projects, the "Skunk Works," in
Burbank, Calif. The first flight over the Nevada test ranges was on
June 18, 1981, only 31 months after the full-scale development
Streamlined management by Aeronautical Systems Center, Wright-Patterson
Air Force Base, Ohio, combined breakthrough stealth technology with
concurrent development and production to rapidly field the aircraft.
The first F-117A was delivered in 1982, and the last delivery was in
the summer of 1990. Air Combat Command's only F-117A unit, the 4450th
Tactical Group, (now the 49th Fighter Wing, Holloman Air Force Base,
N.M.), achieved operational capability in October 1983.
During Operation Desert Storm in 1991, F-117A's flew approximately
1,300 sorties and scored direct hits on 1,600 high-value targets in
Iraq. It was the only U.S. or coalition aircraft to strike targets in
downtown Baghdad. Since moving to Holloman AFB in 1992, the F-117A and
the men and women of the 49th Fighter Wing have deployed to Southwest
Asia more than once. On their first trip, the F-117s flew non-stop from
Holloman to Kuwait, a flight of approximately 18.5 hours -- a record
for single-seat fighters that stands today.
In 1999, 24 F-117A's deployed to Aviano Air Base, Italy, and
Spangdahlem AB, Germany, to support NATO's Operation Allied Force. The
aircraft led the first Allied air strike against Yugoslavia on March
Returning to the skies over Baghdad, F-117A's launched Operation Iraqi
Freedom with a decapitation strike on March 20, 2003. Striking key
targets in the toppling of Saddam Hussein's regime, 12 deployed F-117s
flew more than 100 combat sorties in support of the global war on
The F-117A program demonstrates that stealth aircraft can be designed
for reliability and maintainability. It created a revolution in
military warfare by incorporating low-observable technology into
operational aircraft. The aircraft receives support through a
Lockheed-Martin contract known as Total System Performance
The F-117 is being replaced by the F-22 Raptor. The first 10 were
retired in December 2006.