This week’s plane of the week is the F-117 Nighthawk.
The Lockheed F-117 Nighthawk is a 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, and was the first operational aircraft to be designed around stealth technology. The maiden flight of the Nighthawk happened in 1981 and the aircraft achieved initial operating capability status in 1983. The Nighthawk was shrouded in secrecy until it was revealed in 1988.
The F-117 was widely publicized for its role in the Gulf War of 1991. Although it was commonly referred to as the “Stealth Fighter” and had a fighter designation, it was really a small bomber. F-117s took part in the conflict in Yugoslavia where one was shot down by a surface-to-air missile (SAM) on 27 March 1999, the only Nighthawk to be lost in combat. The Air Force retired the F-117 on 22 April 2008, primarily due to the fielding of the F-22 Raptor. Sixty-four F-117s were built, 59 of which were production versions with the other five being demonstrators/prototypes.
Next week: Walt Disney’s airplane