F-117 STEALTH FIGHTER UNITS OF OPERATION DESERT STORM
OSPREY PUBLISHING, 2007
QUALITY SOFTCOVER, $20.95, 96 PAGES, ILLUSTRATIONS, PHOTOGRAPHS, DRAWINGS, APPENDICES
The Lockheed F-117A Nighthawk is a stealth ground attack aircraft flown solely by the U.S. Air Force. As a product of the Lockheed Have Blue Stealth Prototype Program, it became the first operational aircraft initially designed around stealth technology. Developed by Lockheed's legendary Advanced Development Company, the the first of fifty-nine (59) production aircraft were delivered to the U.S. Air Force in August, 1982. Issued to the Top Secret 4450th Tactical Group at Tonopah in Nevada, the unit achieved operational capability in October, 1983. It wasn't until November, 1988, that the F-117A was revealed to the world by the Department of Defense, and a year later the aircraft made its combat debut during Operation JUST CAUSE in Panama. The last Nighthawk was delivered to the U.S. Air Force in mid-1990, and in August, 1990, the 37th Tactical Fighter Wing deployed en masse to Saudi Arabia as part of Operation DESERT SHIELD in response to Iraq's invasion of Kuwait. They subsequently led the opening strikes of Operation DESERT STORM in January, 1991. Despite its successes in both the kosovo and Iraq Wars and its high mission-capable rate, the F-117 was nonetheless designed with late 1970s technologies. Its stealth technology, while still more advanced than that of any other aircraft but the B-2 Spirit, F-22A, and F-35, is maintenance heavy. Furthermore, the facet-based stealth design (which has an aerodynamic coat) represents an old counter-radar technique that has since been greatly refined. Consequently, there was a preliminary decision in 2006 to retire the fleet by 2008. A draft version of the 2006 Quadrennial Defense Review and the 2007 Defense Budget that were leaked to the press proposed retiring the entire F-117 fleet to make room for buying more F-22As. This plan was removed from both the final 2007 Budget and the final QDR. By late 2006, the U.S. Air Force had closed the F-117 pilot school and announced the retirement of the F-117. The first six (6) aircraft to be retired made their last flight on March 12, 2007 after a ceremony at Holloman Air Force Base to commemorate the aircraft's storied career. Brigadier General David Goldfein, commander of the 49th Fighter Wing, said at the ceremony, "With the launch of these great aircraft today, the circle comes to a close-their service to our nation's defense fulfilled, their mission accomplished, and a job well done. We send them today to their final resting place-a home they are intimately familiar with-their first, and only, home outside of Holloman." Unlike most other U.S. Air Force aircraft which are retired to David-Monthan Air Force Base, the F-117s are being retired to tonopah. There, their wings will be removed and the aircraft will be stored in their original hangars. During the final years of the 20th Century, the most significant break-through in military weaponry was the concept of stealth technology, and the first mass-produced weapon to utilize this to perfection was the F-117 Nighthawk. Originally delivered in 1982, its existence was officially denied until the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait, when it entered the public spotlight over the skies of Baghdad. Illustrated with stunning color photographs of the F-117 over Iraq, and complemented by numerous personal accounts from the pilots themselves, F-!!& STEALTH FIGHTER UNITS OF OPERATION DESERT STORM explores the history and combat experiences of one of the most secretive aircraft ever built.
Lt. Colonel Robert A. Lynn, Florida Guard