This is probably the highest resolution video ever taken at the Tonopah Test Range.
The video in this post was taken in the morning hours on Oct. 10, 2023 by Michał Rokita. Michal reached a spotting point located about 14 miles from Tonopah Test Range with his Nikon P1000 camera with a 3000mm optical zoom and, from there, he shot some of the best TTR airfield footage and photographs ever.
Along with the best panorama of the base, “n01_b4_flash” filmed the flight activity at the secretive base, with radio comms, and he was lucky enough to catch a pair of the local based F-117s that launched for a mission in the range as well as some Janet B737 and Beech King Air aircraft.
Remarkably, Michal also spotted two mysterious aircraft, one of those, barely visible in one of the open hangar close to the F-117’s.
Take a look at the video, you won’t be disappointed.
We have reported in details that 15 years after being officially retired, the F-117s are still flying not only for training purposes as adversary aircraft and cruise missile surrogate, but also for research, development, test and evaluation, possibly related to next generation programs.
In accordance with of the Nation Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) of 2007 (PL 109- 364, Section 136), 52 F-117 aircraft were retired and relocated to the Tonopah Test Range (TTR). Under the requirements of the NDAA, the USAF preserved each F-117 aircraft in Type-l000 (T-1000) storage, which maintains the aircraft in a condition that allows recall for future service. On 30 November 2016, Section 133 of Subtitle D of the National Defense Authorization Act repealed the requirement to preserve the F-117 aircraft in a recallable condition and the USAF intended to declassify, demilitarize, and disposition four F-117 aircraft per year.
The aircraft continued to be spotted, even more than it had happened until then, with the Nighthawks also deploying to several U.S. bases to carry out Dissimilar Air Combat Training with other U.S. types. Then, in 2021, the U.S. Air Force published the first official images of the type still involved in flight operations on the DVIDS (Defense Visual Information Distribution Service) network.
In September 2022 the Air Force Test Center published a Request For Information (RFI) about a possible 10-year contract for maintenance and logistics support services for the F-117A fleet at the TTR airfield, acknowledging that the U.S. Air Force is willing to keep the aircraft flying at least until 2034.
It is not known, how many Nighthawks are still airworthy. As of January 2023, of the 59 F-117s built, approximately 45 F-117s were in the inventory, with more than 10 already approved for transfer to museums. The current disposal rate is only between two and three jets per year, instead of four per year announced in 2017.
A big thank you to Michał “n01_b4_flash” Rokita for sharing the video with us. Take a look and subscribe to his YouTube channel here.