Tag Archives: F-117

In 1986 U.S. President Ronald Reagan offered Britain the F-117 stealth jet

Recently declassified documents show that U.S. President Ronald Reagan offered UK Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher access to the American stealth technology.

Recently declassified documents from the British National Archives have exposed something interesting: back in 1986, the then President of the United States Ronald Reagan offered British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher a chance for transatlantic cooperation on Stealth technology.

As reported by the Guardian, under the name “Project Moonflower,” the former POTUS offered Downing Street a briefing on the Black Project and the opportunity for the U.S. and the UK to work together on it.

“Dear Margaret,” a 1986 US telegram obtained by the Guardian recorded, “I am delighted to hear that you will be able to see Cap [Casapar Weinberger, the US defence secretary] to discuss the special program I wrote you about … I look forward to receiving your reaction. Sincerely, Ron.”

But the UK turned down the chance to work with the U.S. stealth technology and acquire F-117 stealth jets, that had made their first flight in 1981 and would continue to secretly operate until they were revealed to the public in 1988, a couple of years before becoming famous during Desert Storm in Iraq.

Indeed, an MoD letter in December 1986 to Charles Powell, the prime minister’s foreign affairs adviser, informed him that “Mr Weinberger has offered us a chance to purchase the current US aircraft but we have replied that we would not wish to actually buy hardware while the programme remains strictly black [secret].

After the first offer was rejected a modified version of the baseline F-117 was reportedly offered to the UK’s Royal Air Force in 1995.

Believed to be dubbed F-117C, the British variant, was planned to be equipped with “B-2 type intakes, a F-22 type clear-view canopy, British avionics, F414 or EJ200 engines, plus a number of BAE structural components or sub-assemblies.

The aircraft, also referred to as the F-117A+ or F-117B (B for “British”) was being offered as a replacement for the Tornado GR4 and it is believed that this was the reason why some RAF pilots eventually flew the Nighthawk stealth jet before it was (somehow) retired in 2008.

Even though the stealth technology that made the F-117 invisible to radars was cutting edge back in the mid-80s, the Tornado GR4 has been a pretty successful weapon system that the Royal Air Force has extensively used in combat in all the conflicts and crisis support operations it has taken part in the last 20 years.

Meanwhile the first UK’s stealth has eventually arrived in the form of a much controversial Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II.

 

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Watch two F-117 stealth jets fly over Nevada together….8 years after “retirement”

It’s not a secret that some F-117s are still in airworthy conditions at the Tonopah Test Range, in Nevada. Still, it’s pretty unusual and cool to see two Black Jets flying together 8 years after their retirement. And look at photographs…

In the last couple of years we have documented the flights of some F-117 Nighthawk Stealth Jets over Nevada, spotted from the distant hills east of Tonopah Test Range.

In this post you can find some interesting photographs and a video filmed by The Aviationist’s contributor “Sammamishman” at the end of July 2016.

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Back in 2014, once a few videos and photographs had already appeared online, the U.S. Air Force affirmed, that the Black Jet is kept in a “Type 1000” storage at TTR which means that the type is to be maintained until called into active service.

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Desert conditions of Nevada are beneficial for maintaining the stealth jets in pristine conditions (due to the low level of humidity and hence, lower probability of corrosion).

The aircraft are re-preserved in 4 year periods and due to the type of storage, they are to be capable of being brought back into operation within the period of 30-120 days.

Cool.

This means that the U.S. considers the F-117 somehow useful in a current or future scenario so much so, they continue to fly some of the preserved jets, every now and then, in plain sight, to keep the pilots current and the aircraft airworthy and ready. But ready for what?

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Designed in the 1970s, subsonic, optimized for the evasion of the C, X and Ku-bands, and completely unable to dynamically map out threat emitters in real-time as the F-22 or the F-35 can do, the F-117 is *probably* still relevant in some low or medium-lethality scenarios but unable to keep pace with most modern threats.

The service is struggling to retire some active, possibly hard-to-replace aircraft (as the A-10 Thunderbolt) because they are not suitable to modern scenarios and to save money for more advanced weapons systems (such as the F-35).

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Thus, why is the Air Force spending money to keep the iconic, archaic aircraft in flyable conditions?

As we already reported in the past, there is someone who speculates the aircraft is also used for something else, possibly serving as a testbed for some new technologies: radar or Infra Red Search and Track systems, SAM (surface to air missiles) batteries, 6th generation fighter planes, next generation AEW (Airborne Early Warning) platforms or UAVs (unmanned Aerial Vehicles).

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There is someone who’s also suggested the aircraft may be actually “unmanned” and used as fast, combat capable, stealth UCAVs.

Here’s something “Sammamishman” wrote about the flying activities he observed and photographed.

“In examining the photos I sent to you, I noticed that when the two F-117’s were lined up on the runway, only one of them had what looked like a comms antenna extended on the dorsal spine. The other Nighthawk behind him did not have that.”

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“When observing the TTR airbase just at sun rise, a number of vehicles gathered around the hangars that the two F-117’s were photographed inside. They were then prepped and took off together as seen in the pics. They flew at low altitude making a couple runs at lower altitude through the test range airspace to the South of the base, then returned to the airbase [as seen in the other video below]. Total time in the air was about 45 minutes to an hour. I don’t believe that the flight of these two Nighthawks were standard post retirement flight due to the fact that the group of vehicles that gathered at the hangars returned early in the morning and went to one of the same hangars the Nighthawks that had flow from the previous day. It was also on that second day that they also opened another hanger adjacent and appeared to be prepping an unknown craft (as I couldn’t see into the hangar but presumably another F-117) for flight. In pictures of the Nighthawks it appears that one of the craft may have been modified but it is hard to tell,” said “Sammamishman” in an email.

Indeed, one of the two F-117 seems to have a slightly different shape but we can’t be 100 percent sure, as the photographs were taken from far away and heavily distorted by the high temperature and distance.

You judge.

Here below, the video.

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Is this the shape of the new mysterious stealth jet spotted over Texas?

Some blurry pictures taken from the ground are all we know about a possibly new, unknown, U.S. stealth jet. Based on those images we have tried to figure out the shape of the mysterious plane.

On Mar. 10, 2014, three mysterious planes were spotted over Amarillo, Texas, by Steve Douglass, Dean Muskett and few fellow photographers.

The analysis of the photos shot by Douglass and Muskett showed something interesting: the aircraft was almost boomerang shaped and, based on the contrails, it was equipped with two engines (or at least two exhaust nozzles).

One of the images, seemed to show a loose resemblance with the B-2 “batwing” bomber, whereas another one, highlighted a shape reminiscent of an X-47B UCAV (Unmanned Combat Air Vehicle) killer drone.

As done years ago with the famous Stealth Black Hawk exposed by the Osama Bin Laden raid at Abbottabad, based on the grainy images available, I worked with artist Ugo Crisponi to create an image that melted the various details that could be guessed by the shots taken by Douglass and Muskett.

Therefore, the one you can see in this post is a possible shape of a large 6th Generation (probably manned) aircraft, seen over Amarillo; a Black Project, inspired by the B-2 Spirit and F-117 Nighthawk, with inputs from more recent UCAVs designs.

What do you think?

 

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"Gray Dragon": the only F-117A Nighthawk stealth fighter painted in a two-tone gray experimental color scheme

Taken towards the end of 2003/early 2004 by a KC-135 boom operator using the nickname “boomer135” and brought to my attention by Aviationintel‘s Tyler Rogoway the following pictures show the quite rare “Gray Dragon”, the gray F-117A Nighthawk stealth fighter.

This plane was the only to be painted in an experimental two-tone grey color scheme.

Noteworthy, when the authro posted them for the first time on the ATS forum, he stated that the depicted aircraft was being flown by a (civilian) Lockheed Martin test pilot.

The “Gray Dragon” was among the first six Nighthawks that the U.S. Air Force flew for the last time from Holloman Air Force Base to Tonopah Test Range, Navada, on Mar. 12, 2007.

Image credit: “boomer135” via Tyler Rogoway/Aviationintel.com

As many of you already know, since the last F-117 was retired in 2008, the famous stealth fighter has been “spotted” several times. Along with several sightings, there’s even a seemingly genuine video of a single triangular “black jet” flying inside the Nellis Range Complex years after retirement.

You can find an interesting analysis of the possible reasons behind the decision to keep a small fleet of F-117 active here.