Tag Archives: Lockheed F-117 Nighthawk

This Infographic Sums Up the USAF contribution to Operation Desert Storm

The Gulf War in 1991 was the first to feature stealth and space use by the U.S. Air Force.

The First Gulf War kicked off on Jan. 17, 1991.

In order to celebrate the 25th anniversary of Operation Desert Storm, the U.S. Air Force has released an infographic that sums up the contribution of the air branch to the war in response to Iraq’s invasion and annexation of Kuwait.

Although several air arms belonging to a wide coalition took part in the Operation against Saddam Hussein’s forces, the bulk of the sorties was provided by the USAF that unleashed its F-117 stealth jets in real combat sorties for the first time (at least publicly).

The figures provided are pretty interesting: they show that the majority of the sorties were flown by support assets (KC-135 tankers and C-130 cargo planes) and that, among the tactical planes, the F-16s, deployed in very large numbers and undertaking a variety of missions, conducted most sorties (almost 14,000).

Click below to download the infographic in hi-rez.

Desert Storm infographic hi-rez

Credit: U.S. Air Force


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You won’t believe this is NOT an F-117 Nighthawk stealth jet!

From a certain angle, the nEUROn drone is  an F-117 look-alike.

The image in this post was taken by The Aviationist’s contributor Roberto Zanda on Apr. 21. It shows the first example of the nEUROn UCAV (Unmanned Combat Aerial Vehicle), the full-scale technology demonstrator developed by France, Italy, Sweden, Spain, Switzerland and Greece, returning to Decimomannu airbase, Italy, at the end of test mission.

The European drone is involved in operational testing over the Perdasdefogu range, in Sardinia, before moving to Visdel, Sweden, for weapons trials.

We have often highlighted the loose resemblance of the new stealth combat drone to the American Northrop Grumman X-47B but this photo seems to prove the UCAV design was also inspired by the legendary Lockheed Martin F-117 Nighthawk stealth jet.

Image credit: Roberto Zanda


This is the reason why F-117 stealth jets are still flying. Maybe…

F-117 Mysterious Flights. Is the Riddle Solved? Maybe or maybe not.

Last month we published some photographs, shot around Tonopah Test Range, that proved that one or more F-117 Nighthawk stealth jets are still flying 6 years after being officially retired by the U.S. Air Force.

The story created a lot of hype and many speculations regarding the reason behind the mysterious activity.

We mentioned several different explainations behind the flights (in plain daylight), ranging from tests of new radar systems, which would be capable of detecting stealthy aircraft, to modified UCAV versions, through tests of new weapons, up to a brave hypothesis of getting the Nighthawks modernized and operational again.

Apparently, the reason seems to be not so exciting. Defense News’s Aaron Mehta has obtained an official explaination from the U.S. Air Force.

According to the USAF, the jet is kept in a “Type 1000” storage, which means that the type is to be maintained until called into active service.

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.

This version of the story is confirmed by Dziennik Zbrojny, one of the leading Polish defense outlets which quotes a USAF spokesperson as well.

What is the reason for the flights then? Well, flights are a form of a routine check, which ensures that the F-117 is still airworthy.

The Nighthawk fleet has been retired back in 2008 and maintained inside the Tonopah Test Range Hangars.

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). Since, according to the source quoted by Defense News, maintaining the jets at AMARC, at Davis-Monthan AFB, would be less cost-effective (means of secure storage would have to be implemented), the Tonopah infrastructure has been used instead.


However we can’t but notice that it is at least weird that a somehow obsolete fleet (the F-117 was the first stealth jet designed back in the 1970s and inducted into active service in 1983) is kept in operational status by flying a handful of planes every now and then. The Air Force 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: why would they spend money to keep the aircrews proficient and the fascinating but old aircraft in flyable conditions? How would a few Black Jets be employed in a modern scenario considering their rather archaic weapons control system?

We don’t want to fuel conspiracy theories but, as suggested by our friends at lazygranch.com, after the retirement, the F-117 were sometimes spotted over the TTR during test flights which involved the MIT Gulfstream N105TB: if confirmed this joint activity might point towards something different than a routine airworthiness check sortie.

Ok, as said, the story of the storage 1000 is reasonable, but a few questions are yet to be answered.

Written with Jacek Siminski

Image credit: U.S. Air Force


New Photos of the F-117 Black Jet flying over Tonopah Test Range in 2014

Some new photos, taken few months ago, show the F-117 stealth fighter jet flying over Tonopah Test Range.

As explained in a previous post, the F-117 Nighthawk stealth attack plane, officially retired in 2008, is still flying at Tonopah Test Range, in Nevada, 6 years after the aircraft made its last flight with the U.S. Air Force.

At least a couple of “Black Jets” were sighted and photographed by local aviation enthusiasts and spotters during flights conducted over the TTR.


The reason for these flights is unknown: it may be used to support test and development of new radar or Infra Red Search and Track systems, SAM (surface to air missiles) batteries, 6th generation combat planes, next generation AEW (Airborne Early Warning) platforms or UAVs (unmanned Aerial Vehicles).

There is someone who speculate they are part of a secret USAF’s strike force reserve.

Anyway, the images in this post, taken mid-April 2014 from atop Brainwash Butte near TTR by Foster Van Schaick (who has explored Area 51 and its surroundings several times) prove that someone (not sure whether Lockheed Martin, another company, or the Air Force) has not only preserved the F-117, but it is still flying the first and most famous American stealth aircraft.

Click on the images to open the hi-rez version. EXIF data is available.


Image credit: Foster Van Schaick


These Photos Prove F-117 Stealth Jets Still Fly at Tonopah 6 years After Retirement

The news that F-117s were flying somewhere in Nevada was known. Here’s the evidence.

The images in this post were shot on Sept. 30, at around 11.00AM, from Brainwash Butte. Although much distorted by the high temperature and distance, they clearly show an F-117 Nighthawk Stealth Jet operating at the Tonopah Test Range, in Nevada.

The aircraft reportedly flew on both Sept. 29 and 30.


Even though flights of the Black Jets have been documented a few times on video past its official retirement in 2008, these are the first images that prove the stealth plane, most probably two of them, since, according to the contributor who sent us the blurry images he shot from the hills east of TTR, the plane that flew on the 29th was in a different barn than the one flew on the 30th.


Interestingly, the aircraft flew on Sept. 29 using radio callsign “Knight 12”.

Why some F-117s were kept in flying conditions and still operate in secrecy (although during daylight…) more than 6 years after their official retirement remains a mystery.


There are several possibilities, among them, the most plausible, is that the aircraft is used to test some other technology: 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).

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

Image credit: lazygranch.com