F-117 Stealth Fighter: What You Need to Know



When aviation fans think of American stealth planes, the first that come to mind are often the F-22 Raptor and F-35 Lightning II. 

The U.S. Air Force’s F-117 Nighthawk served as a predecessor to the best-known fighters flying today in many ways. True “stealth” qualities of the Nighthawk are frequently questioned.

At the time of its commissioning, the U.S. Air Force recognized the aircraft as a stealth fighter. However, the U.S. Air Force designated the airframe as a stealth fighter at the time of its commissioning.




Although the combat days of this airframe are long gone, “retired” Nighthawks have been seen flying over Nevada in recent years.

Presentation of the F-117 Nighthawk
Following the Vietnam War, the U.S. Air Force wanted an aircraft stealthy enough to evade the Soviet Union’s increasingly advanced surface-to-air missiles (SAMs). The creation of the F-117 fighter was a black project for years, a highly classified initiative known only to a few of Pentagon officials.




In fact, the former USSR discarded the “diamond shape” concept that emerged from Ufimstev’s work. However, the United States took the ideas of Russian scientists seriously.

History of the F-117
In the middle of the 1970s, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) commissioned Lockheed Martin to develop and test two stealth fighters. After production and initial testing of both prototypes, the decision was taken to proceed forward with the “Senior Trend” F-117A under the program.




Two General Electric F404 engines powered the F-117, allowing the airframe to reach high subsonic speeds. The Raytheon AGM-65 Maverick and the Advanced Guided Munitions System (AGM-88) HARM air-to-surface missiles were among the weapons that the Nighthawk could carry.

End and withdrawal
Although the F-117 platform achieved some success in the Gulf War, the aircraft struggled to fulfill its promise of invincibility when a missile in Yugoslavia shot down a Nighthawk. The Nighthawks were officially retired in 2008, but periodic “sightings” of the airframe suggest that it is still being used in some training exercises.


 

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