Tag Archives: stealth jet

It’s Been 10 Years Since The F-117 Nighthawk Retired (At Least, Officially…)

The last F-117 Black Jets officially retired from active service on Apr. 22, 2008. But some Nighthawks have continued to fly.

On Apr. 22, the U.S. Air Force posted an interesting article on their website titled “Remembering the F-117 Nighthawk”. The story commemorates the 10th anniversary of the retirement of the “Black Jet”, the world’s first and most famous operational stealth combat jet, that took place at Palmdale, California, where Lockheed Martin staff said farewells to the last four-ship formation coming from Holloman Air Force Base, New Mexico, led by (Ret.) Col. Jack Forsythe.

Retired Col Jack Forsythe in frotn of the flag F-117A at Tonopah AFB, Nevada, after the last mission April 22, 2008.

Indeed, the iconic jet was retired after little more than 25 years of service, on Apr. 22, 2008, even though the official retirement from the active service did not translate into the end of flying activities for the F-117: flights of the Black Jets over Nevada were reported or documented every now and then past the official retirement in 2008 and in 2014, we published the first images that proved that some stealth planes were still operating out of Tonopah Test Range. It later emerged that the aircraft was being maintained and kept in a “Type 1000” storage to be occasionally flown at Tonopah Test Range until the National Defense Authorization Act of 2017, ordered the USAF to “demilitarize the aircraft” i.e. to retire the fleet permanently, once and for all, one in 2017 and the rest at a rate of four F-117s every year. In fact, on Nov. 13, 2017 an F-117 Nighthawk was spotted on a trailer on US-95, south of Creech AFB, in southern Nevada, most probably heading to the boneyard, to be scrapped or prepared for a museum whilst on the following day, Nov. 14, 2017, another F-117, chased by a two-seater F-16, was spotted flying north of Rachel, Nevada.

Four F-117A Nighthawk’s perform one last flyover at the Sunset Stealth retirement cerermony at Holloman AFB, N.M., 21 April 2008. The F-117A flew under the flag of the 49th Fighter Wing at Holloman Air Force Base, New Mexico from 1992 to its retirement in 2008. (U.S. Air Force Photo by SSgt Jason Colbert)

Anyway, it’s interesting to note that the presence of a small fleet of Nighthawks is never officially mentioned in USAF public releases.

According to our friend Tyler Rogoway at The War Zone the aircraft are flown by Lockheed Martin contractors and this might explain the lack of official references to the aircraft still flying today.

Here’s the full text published by the flying branch along with the photos you can find in this story. It includes some interesting details about the legendary plane:

It’s been 10 years since the F-117 Nighthawk retired, an aircraft so secret Nevada folklore labeled it a UFO.

The Nighthawk pilots were known by the call sign “Bandit,” each earning their number with their first solo flight. Some of the maintainers were also given a call sign, said Wayne Paddock, a former F-117 maintainer currently stationed at Holloman Air Force Base, New Mexico.

“The people who maintained the coatings on the aircraft, radar absorbent material were classified as material application and repair specialists (MARS). MARS morphed into Martians,” Paddock said “MARS was a shred out from the structural repair/corrosion control career field.”

The technology for the F-117 was developed in the 1970s as a capability for attacking high value targets without being detected by enemy radar. It had up to 5,000 pounds of assorted internal stores, two engines and could travel up to 684 mph.

It was the first airplane designed and built as a low-observable, stable and therefore precise platform, said Yancy Mailes, director of the history and museums program for Air Force Materiel Command at Wright-Patterson AFB, Ohio, and a former F-117 maintainer.

“It was the marriage of the GBU-27 to the F-117 that had a laser designator in its nose that made it such a precise, deadly platform,” Mailes said. “It was best demonstrated during Operation Desert Storm when pilots snuck into Iraq and dropped weapons down the elevator shaft of a central communications building in Iraq.”

The first Nighthawk flew June 18, 1981, and the original F-117A unit, the 4450th Tactical Group (renamed the 37th Tactical Fighter Wing in October 1989), achieved initial operating capability in October 1983. The Nighthawk originally saw combat during Operation Just Cause in 1989, when two F-117s from the 37th TFW attacked military targets in Panama. The aircraft was also in action during Operation Desert Shield.

Retired Col. Jack Forsythe, remembers being excited when he initially flew a Nighthawk while stationed at Holloman AFB in 1995.

“It was a unique experience,” he said. “It’s probably the same feeling that a lot of our (single seat) F-22 (Raptor) and F-35 (Lightning II) pilots feel today.”

After 25 years of service, the Nighthawk retired April 22, 2008. Forsythe led the four-ship formation to Palmdale, California, where Lockheed Martin staff said their farewells.

“We lowered the bomb doors of each aircraft and people signed their names to the doors,” Forsythe said. “It was really just kind of neat; they had designed it, built it and maintained it for these 25 years, so it really hit home – the industry and Air Force partnership that made the Nighthawk great. I think the four of us were just really struck by that and have some really great memories of that flight.”

The American flag was painted on the entire underside of his F-117 by the maintainers to help celebrate American airpower.

“I think we all recognized that this was something historic,” he said. “We retired an airplane that people still reference today. We really understood that so it was a sentimental flight to say the least. It was a great weapon system, very stable and easy to fly. It’s still a memorable experience.”

From left to right, retired Col. Jack Forsythe, Lt. Col. Mark Dinkard, 49th Operations Group Deputy, Lt. Col. Todd Flesch, 8th Fighter Squadron commander, Lt. Col. Ken Tatum, 9th Fighter Squadron commander, after retiring the last four F-117As to Tonopah Air Force Base, Nevada April 22, 2008.

U.S. F-22 Stealth Jets Perform Raptor’s First Ever Air Strike In Afghanistan Employing Small Diameter Bombs

U.S. F-22 Raptor Stealth Aircraft Carried Out First Raid In Afghanistan.

“Over the past 24 hours, U.S. and Afghan forces conducted combined operations to strike seven Taliban drug labs and one command-and-control node in northern Helmand province. Three of those strikes were in Kajaki district, four in Musa Qalah district and one in Sangin district,” says an official NATO press release.

The night air strikes targeted plantations of poppy (processed into illegal opiate drugs such as heroin) in Helmand Province: opiates have become a global health, economic and security problem, and the Taliban are responsible for up to 85 percent of the world’s opium production. “It’s estimated that more than $200 million of this economy goes straight into the Taliban’s bank accounts.”

Noteworthy, for the very first time, U.S. Air Force F-22A Raptors took part in the air strikes in Afghanistan “principally because of their ability to mitigate civilian casualties and inadvertent damage by employing small diameter bombs during U.S. airstrikes.” The F-22s, operated alongside B-52 bombers, Hellfire missiles fired from drones, and U.S. Marine Corps-operated High-Mobility Rocket Systems that were “pivotal in the first night of strike successes.”

The U.S. Air Force Raptor stealth multi-role jet had its baptism of fire flying Swing Role missions in support of the air war on ISIS on Sept. 23, 2014. Tasked for air-to-ground missions, the F-22 can carry two 1,000-lb GBU-32 Joint Direct Attack Munitions, along with AIM-120s AMRAAMs (Advanced Medium Range Air-to-Air Missiles) radar-guided missiles and AIM-9 Sidewinder IR-guided missiles.

Since software increment 3.1 embedded back in 2012, the F-22 can also drop 8 GBU-39 small diameter bombs, 250-lb multipurpose, insensitive, penetrating, blast-fragmentation warhead for stationary targets, equipped with deployable wings for extended standoff range. These bombs are particularly useful to improve accuracy and reduce collateral damage.

Along with the ability to carry PGMs (Precision Guided Munitions), in the last few years the aircraft were also given a radar upgrade that enhanced the F-22 capabilities in the realm of air interdiction and the so-called “kinetic situational awareness”: as we have often explained in previous articles, the role that the Raptor plays in Operation Inherent Resolve is to use advanced onboard sensors, such as the AESA (Active Electronically Scanned Array) radar, to gather valuable details about the enemy targets, then share the “picture” with attack planes as the F-15E Strike Eagles.

Interestingly, in an interview given at the end of 2013, General Hawk Carlisle said 5th generation aircraft would provide forward target identification for strike missiles launched from a surface warship or submerged submarine, in the future. The PACAF commander described the ability of the F-22s, described as “electronic warfare enabled sensor-rich aircraft,” to provide forward targeting through their sensors for submarine based T-LAMS (cruise missiles).

The F-22s were supported by KC-10 Extender from the 908th Expeditionary Air Refueling Squadron, also based at Al Dhafra Air Base, United Arab Emirates, during their first action in Afghanistan in the night of Nov. 20.

 

 

“Qaher F-313, Tehran’s homemade stealth jet, in final production stage” Iran’s Defense Minister claims

Do you remember the Iranian stealth jet that was unveiled in 2013 and looked like a fake plane? Well, it would be in the final stages of production according to Tehran.

Little more than 4 years ago, Iran unveiled the Qaher F-313 stealth fighter jet “one of the most sophisticated fighter jets in the world,” according to Tehran.

Even if Iranian media outlets published articles that listed the aircraft’s top features, based on the first images released on Feb. 2, 2013, we explained that the Qaher was just a mock-up that would never fly unless it was extensively modified and improved.

In fact, the cockpit seemed too basic for a modern plane, the air intakes too small , the engine section lacked any kind of nozzle (meaning that the engine, with or without afterburner) would probably melt the aircraft’s back-end) and, generally speaking, the aircraft was way too small. Some of our readers may remember a photo of an Iranian pilot sitting in a cockpit that could not fit a normal-sized human being.

Almost nothing about this jet has emerged since then, besides a single shot that allegedly showed the Qaher being moved to be prepared for taxi tests.

Until, Mar. 5, 2017, when Iran’s defense minister, General Hossein Dehqan, claimed that work on the domestic radar-evading plane is complete and the Qaher is now ready for testing, as reported by the Iranian semi-official news agency Fars News.

We have just widely explained that the flying aircraft shown in a video released in 2013 is a radio controlled model and that some our Iranian readers have said that the one displayed 4 years ago was not intended to be an actual plane but a drone.

Noteworthy, unlike it described the homemade F-313 when it was first (somehow) rolled-out, Fars News is today a bit more prudent: “Qaher is a logistic aircraft for short distances and is a light fighter jet used for military and training operations. Some military analysts have stated that Qaher is a fifth generation aircraft.”

Manned or unmanned, for what we have seen so far, the Qaher will hardly take to the air. However, Iranian engineers have already proved to be able of some impressive works: for instance, the Islamic Republic of Iran Air Force (IRIAF) remains the world’s only operator of the Tomcat, a type of interceptor that Tehran has been able to kept airworthy and somehow enhance with some domestic avionics upgrades and weapons throughout the years in spite of the embargo imposed after the 1979 Revolution. Moreover, Iran has been able to successfully produce and export several UAVs (Unmanned Aerial Vehicles), some of those have been extensively used in combat over Syria, others, allegedly based on the captured U.S. drones.

So, let’s wait until some new image or footage of the F-313 is unveiled to see if the latest claims are based on a real aircraft with real capabilities or it’s just domestic propaganda.

Image credit: FARS News, “Iranian Spotters” via Pakistan Defence forum

 

Watch U.S. F-22 stealth jets refuel on their way to strike an ISIS target in Iraq

Cool footage of Raptors refueling during an air strike in Iraq.

The following footage was shot on Jan. 30, 2015.

It shows F-22s belonging to 95th FS from Tyndall Air Force Base refuel over the Persian Gulf from a U.S. Air Force KC-135 while participating in a coalition air strike on a Vehicle Borne Improvised Explosive Device factory.

Along with SEAD (Suppression of Enemy Air Defense) platforms the Raptor stealth fighters are now embedded in standard coalition strike packages as “electronic warfare enabled sensor-rich multi-role aircraft”: they can enter a target area, gather details about the enemy systems with their extremely advanced onboard sensors (including an Active Electronically Scanned Array – AESA radar), share the picture and enemy information with other tactical assets, command and control planes and AWACS, escort other unstealthy planes or drones towards the targets taking care of any air threat and even attack their own targets with PGMs.

Top image credit: U.S. Air Force

Why this photo of an F-22 Raptor stealth jet taking off for a night air strike in Syria is interesting

Here is an interesting photograph shot on the night of Sept. 23, when the U.S. fifth generation fighter plane had its baptism of fire.

The image in this post is interesting for several reasons.

First of all, it shows a Lockheed Martin F-22 Raptor stealth jet with the 1st Fighter Wing taking off to take part in the U.S. and allied offensive against ISIS in Syria on the night of Sept. 23, when the U.S. Air Force 5th generation fighter plane had its baptism of fire.

Then, in spite of the low quality, the shot is worth a mention as it is one of the very few images you will find on the Internet showing an F-22 at night partly lit up by the green formation lights. In fact, although it may sound weird, there are not so many shots of depicting the Raptor after night. You can find more F-35 after-dark photographs than F-22 ones.

So, enjoy a barely visible Raptor (and notice the stealth plane’s formation lights switched on) as it departs from Al Dhafra for a strike mission in Syria.

Image credit: U.S. Air Force