Also known as the Frisbee or the Wobblin’ Goblin the F-117 Nighthawk stealth fighter is the world’s first aircraft that incorporates stealth technology.Developed by the famous Skunk Works division of Lockheed Martin as a development of the Have Blue stealth technology demonstrator, the F-117 Nighthawk flew for the first time in 1977.First delivery was made in 1982 and in 1990 the US Air Force received the last of the 59 aircraft ordered.
Although designated F-117 (the US Air Force designates air-to-air fighters with the letter F) the Nighthawk is in fact an air-to-ground attack aircraft.To this day the USAF claims the F-117 can carry air-to-air missiles that give it air-to-air capability, however that is under question since the aircraft does not carry either a long range radar for guiding missiles at long range or short range missiles for self-defense.
The need to reflect hostile radar into narrow beam signals led to the peculiar shape of the aircraft, with lots of angled surfaces. Because of this shape the aircraft uses a quadruple redundant fly-by-wire control system. The aircraft is also coated with a Radar Absorbent Material or RAM that helps reduce the radar cross section to a value between 10 cm² and 100 cm².
Shrouded in secrecy, the F-117 Nighthawk was revealed to the general public in November 1988. During the invasion of Panama the F-117 was used for the first time in conflict, when two Nighthawks launched two bombs on Rio Hato airfield. However, the F-117 became a star during the first Gulf War, when video footage of precision bombing was released to the public. Avoiding radar and at the cover of darkness, numerous sorties were executed without a single loss.
On March 27 1999 it was proven to the world that the F-117 is not invincible.An F-117A with the serial number 82-806 was shot down by the 3rd Battalion of the 250th Missile Brigade, equipped with the Isayev S-123 “Neva-M” surface-ti-air missile. Commander of the 250th Missile Brigade, Colonel Zoltan Dani maintained that the F-117 is visible to a radar operating on long wavelenghts thus allowing his unit to shoot them down. There are some reports that indicate the Nighthawk was visible on some Iraqi radars during Gulf War, but only for short periods of time.
In late 2006 The USAF declared that the F-117 Nighthawk will be retired. The role of enemy territory penetration and precision strikes will be ensued by the B-2 Spirit and the F-22 Raptor.
Length 19.4m (63ft 9in)
Height 3.9m (12ft 9in)
Wingspan 13.2m (43ft 4in)
Weight 23,625kg (52,500lb)
Angle of Sweep of Delta Wing 67° 30 minutes
Type 2 x GE F404 non-afterburning engines
Speed High subsonic
Range Unlimited with air refuelling
Armament BLU-109B low level laser guided bomb; GBU-10; GBU-27 laser guided bomb units; AGM-65 Maverick; AGM-88 HARM; BDU-33 practice bombs