Tag Archives: Lockheed F-117 Nighthawk

Check Out These Photos Of A Mysterious F-117 Under Protective Cover On A Trailer On Route 95 South Of Creech AFB, Nevada, Yesterday

What appears to be an F-117 Nighthawk Stealth Jet was spotted yesterday on the road south of Creech AFB, Nevada.

The above composite image was obtained by merging two screenshots from a video filmed by Randy Williams and made available to The Aviationist by Brett Wyman who first posted them on a FB group focused on Nellis AFB.

The screenshots clearly show what seems to be a (real or mock?) F-117 Nighthawk stealth jet, hidden under protective cover, on a trailer spotted on Route 95 south of Creech Air Force Base.

Side by side, here are the two screenshots provided by Brett Wyman from the original Randy Williams footage.

Although where the aircraft was being transferred is unknown it’s probably safe to assume it was collected at Tonopah Test Range. Indeed, since 2014 we have documented the flights of some F-117 Nighthawk Stealth Jets over Nevada. Last year we published a video showing two F-117s flying in July 2016, filmed from the distant hills east of Tonopah Test Range.

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

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

Therefore the U.S. considered the F-117 somehow useful in a current scenario so much so, they continued 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.

However, the 2017 defense budget retired the fleet permanently. In fact, “in accordance with the National Defense Authorization Act of 2017, passed Dec. 23, the Air Force will remove four F-117s every year to fully divest them — a process known as demilitarizing aircraft,” wrote Oriana Pawlyk recently.

According to Pawlyk, one F-117 was scheduled to be divested this year and approximately four every year thereafter.

The one spotted yesterday may have been that one, heading for the boneyard, a museum or something else. Anyway, if you know something more, let us know in the comments section or by sending us an email.

Update Nov. 15, 07:00 UTC

The Aviationist’s writer Tom Demerly and his girlfriend Jan happened to be in Nevada for Aviation Nation. He saw the F-117 under tarp as well. Here’s his recollection of the “sighting”:

We were east bound going back toward Las Vegas from the Nevada/California border after shooting photos all day at the Jedi Transition.

Both of us were tired having gotten up at 3:00 AM that morning to drive to the Jedi Transition/Star Wars Canyon near Death Valley. It gets dark early there. There is only one road in that area, and we did have a little difficulty locating that road, US-95, on the way back to the junction in Beatty leaving Death Valley, California and going back into Nevada.

Once we got on the road headed west there was no traffic. The road is sparsely travelled even during the day. It is absolutely black out there at night. Zero lights, zero power lines. Nothing, just the road. Earlier we had seen herds of donkeys, huge desert hare, fox and jackals along the road.

We stopped briefly to photograph the donkeys in the dark, pulling off the road to illuminate them with our headlights. I saw the truck with the covered load coming towards us once we got on US-95. It appeared to have at least one, maybe two vehicles following it and extra forward-facing lights.

The lights were incredibly bright, facing outward from the load, making it difficult to see what was on the trailer as we passed each other going in opposite directions. It would have been impossible to grab a quick photo because of those lights.They were not moving excessively fast, but we were headed the opposite way, so we only saw it briefly. I recall, immediately after we passed it, trying to figure out what was under the tarp.

We decided it may be an aircraft being moved somewhere for static display or some type of radar test model- or something more banal like a piece of a big sign or construction equipment, but that idea seemed odd, especially after dark on those remote roads. It wasn’t easy driving. We could not see the angle of the forward portion of the load, which would have given it away, because of the bright lights. We only briefly saw the back two-thirds of the tarp.

The back portion of the load protruded off the back of the trailer. That was the tail of the aircraft under the tarp. In retrospect, seeing these photos, it actually becomes pretty clear. As soon as my girlfriend and I saw these photos we were amazed. It actually was an F-117.

Much earlier that day, before sunrise on the way to Death Valley, we stopped briefly at a gas station directly across from Creech AFB. There are no gas stations between Creech and Beatty, so you want to tank-up before you get on that section of road. I noticed a man with a beard in his late 20s, early 30s, park a nice-looking pick-up truck at the edge of the gas station parking lot, then get in a large shuttle van with darkly tinted windows, like an airport shuttle van. He was carrying a large lunchbox. I thought he was a civilian contractor being shuttled onto Creech AFB for some type of civilian support role.

But when the shuttle van (with “Y” license plate) left the gas station parking lot going west it continued for quite some time. There is nothing out there. The shuttle made one other stop and we passed it. We could see it behind us for a while, then it disappeared. I supposed, based on the age and appearance of the man who got on the shuttle, and the fact that he noticed I noticed him, that he was working on something potentially interesting.

Thanks a lot to Brett Wyman for allowing us to use the screenshots!

 

That Time 25 F-117s Flew Over Holloman AFB In The Largest Stealth Aircraft Formation Ever

On Oct. 27, 2006 a 25-plane formation celebrated the Nighthawk’s 25th anniversary and 250,000 flying hour.

The Lockheed F-117A, the world’s first operational stealth aircraft and one of the most secret planes ever developed, only flew at night until its existence was publicly acknowledged in 1988.

59 production aircraft (one of those was lost to the Serbian Air Defense during “Operation Allied Force“ whereas another one crashed in 1997 during an airshow in Maryland) served with the U.S. Air Force until the type was officially retired in 2008.

Little less than half of them flew together over Heritage Park at Holloman Air Force Base, New Mexico, home of the 49th Fighter Wing, during the Silver Stealth event for the F-117’s 25th anniversary on Oct. 27, 2006.

Five formations of F-117s flying over Holloman AFB on Oct. 27, 2006 (U.S. Air Force)

The images in this post were taken during the event about 11 years ago: the largest F-117 formation ever, the largest 49th Fighter Wing formation and the largest stealth jets formation ever.

As already said, the aircraft was officially retired in 2008. However, back in 2014, after a few videos and photographs of the aircraft flying few years after the official phase-out (the most recent clip that we have posted here at The Aviationist shows the aircraft flying in July 2016) had already appeared online, the U.S. Air Force affirmed that the Black Jet was kept in a “Type 1000” storage at Tonopah Test Range, Nevada, meaning that the type was to be maintained until called into active service.

To do what? Hard to say.

Twenty-five F-117 Nighthawks line up waiting for takeoff from Holloman Air Force Base, NM. The planes were part of a formation celebrating Nighthawk’s 25th anniversary/250,000 flying hour here. The 25 plane were separated into 5 groups and flew over the base to end the celebration ceremony. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Brian Ferguson)

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. In this post you can find the latest available video as well as a few theories 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.

Meanwhile, enjoy a sight never to be repeated again: the 25 stealth jets flying together in 2006.

F-117 Nighthawks fly over New Mexico as part of the 25th Anniversary celebration at Holloman Air Force Base, N.M., Oct. 27. The formation was part of the Nighthawk’s 25th anniversary and 250,000 flying-hour celebration. The formation consisted of 25 planes staggered into five separate groups.

25 Nighthawks fill the sky over Holloman on Oct. 27, 2006 (Image credit: Denny Lombard via Lockheed Martin).

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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.

Reasonable.

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