HomeNewsArticle Display

Remembering the F-117 Nighthawk

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

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

Retired Air Force Col. Jack Forsythe in front of the flag F-117 at Tonopah Air Force Base, Nev., after the last mission April 22, 2008. Forsythe led the four-ship formation that flew the Nighthawk to its resting place. (Courtesy photo)

Retired Air Force Col. Jack Forsythe in front of the flag F-117 at Tonopah Air Force Base, Nev., after the last mission April 22, 2008. Forsythe led the four-ship formation that flew the Nighthawk to its resting place. (Courtesy photo)

Two specially painted F-117 Nighthawks fly on one of their last missions. The F-117s were retired  in a farewell ceremony at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio, April 22, 2008. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Master Sgt. Kim Frey)

Two specially painted F-117 Nighthawks fly on one of their last missions. The F-117s were retired in a farewell ceremony at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio, April 22, 2008. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Master Sgt. Kim Frey)

Retired Col. Jack Forsythe poses for a photo inside his home in Alexandria, Va., April 13, 2018. Forsythe flew the final sortie of the F-117 Nighthawk. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Rusty Frank)

Retired Col. Jack Forsythe poses for a photo inside his home in Alexandria, Va., April 13, 2018. Forsythe flew the final sortie of the F-117 Nighthawk. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Rusty Frank)

From left: 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-117s to Tonopah Air Force Base, Nev. April 22, 2008. (Courtesy photo)

From left: 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-117s to Tonopah Air Force Base, Nevada April 22, 2008. (Courtesy photo)

A back lit front view of an F-117 Nighthawk from Airman Magazine's February 1995 issue article "Streamlining Acquisition 101." The Lockheed F-117A was developed in response to an Air Force request for an aircraft capable of attacking high value targets without being detected by enemy radar. (Airman Magazine photo)

A back lit front view of an F-117 Nighthawk from Airman Magazine's February 1995 issue article "Streamlining Acquisition 101." The Lockheed F-117A was developed in response to an Air Force request for an aircraft capable of attacking high value targets without being detected by enemy radar. (Airman Magazine photo)

WASHINGTON (AFNS) -- 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.”

Engage

Twitter
RT @173rdFW: "I may have lost everything, but thanks to the support we’ve found here, I’m going to be back on my feet inside of a few weeks…
Twitter
.@GenCQBrownJr & @cmsaf_official sat down and discussed how the Air Force will continue exempting Airmen from PT t… https://t.co/bWVig9fSOW
Twitter
SrA Mark Gonzalez describes how his job enables the B-2 Spirit Stealth Bomber to support the Bomber Task Force depl… https://t.co/sceKCtM3Pz
Twitter
RT @AETCommand: Our Airmen come from all walks of life — and we are stronger for it. Staff Sgt. Kalinin, 56th Force Support Squadron ALS…
Twitter
“It's critical to have that diversity in the Air Force that we have today because it is truly through that diversit… https://t.co/RIDQDjdlCr
Twitter
F-16 Fighting Falcons assigned to the 18th Aggressor Squadron @EielsonAirForce takeoff in support of exercise Valia… https://t.co/cf0raGgEUD
Twitter
RT @USAF_ACC: "This test, and others like it, can shape the future of the MQ-9, as we continue to increase its relevance in great power com…
Twitter
"We cannot rest on our laurels. It is all about the people, folks, and they will guarantee our readiness, and are f… https://t.co/BsNDUSw0wE
Twitter
RT @USAFCENT: USAFCENT Airmen and coalition partners are executing missions of national, regional and global importance and Exercise Desert…
Twitter
In March 2019, @AFSpecOpsCmd received its first Block 30 AC-130J Ghostrider gunship. Referred to as “the ultimate b… https://t.co/V9FoDThYRQ
Twitter
As the Joint Force transitioned from a Continuous Bomber Presence posture in the Indo-Pacific theater to a Dynamic… https://t.co/u8JlA3GaeF
Twitter
As of August 2020, The 53rd Weather Reconnaissance Squadron, aka Hurricane Hunters, has flown 64 missions into 12 s… https://t.co/CFtHJ8HDXG
Twitter
.@AFGlobalStrike tackled B-1B readiness issues head-on by readying the fleet with a roadmap to recovery over a 2-yr… https://t.co/dEfZemGKbb
Twitter
As we celebrate 73 years of the U.S. Air Force, we remember the heroes we are proud to have served with. Today we… https://t.co/3pdHX3DvIn
Twitter
Flying, fighting and winning since 1947. #USAF73 https://t.co/qM28ykPZwt
Twitter
RT @AF_Academy: Proud to fly the @usairforce flag today and every day! Happy 73rd Birthday! #YourAcademy #FamilyWeek https://t.co/hOIs1ghq7M
Twitter
RT @GenCQBrownJr: Today we honor the #heroes who knew the worst of war and the agony of captivity - those who fought for and lost their fre…
Twitter
RT @ArmyMateriel: Join us in wishing a Happy Birthday to our brothers and sisters in the United States Air Force! #DYK The Air Force was…
Facebook
The newest Air Force Podcast recently dropped. Listen to a small snippet of CMSAF Kaleth O. Wright talk with Staff Sgt. New about resiliency. Listen to the entire podcast on Youtube: https://go.usa.gov/xpnAD or Subscribe to The Air Force Podcast on iTunes: https://podcasts.apple.com/podcast/the-air-force-podcast/id1264107694?mt=2
Facebook
Our mantra, "Always ready!" It's the spirit we fly by! #B2Tuesday
Facebook
Need some motivation to get your week started off right? Listen as CMSAF Kaleth O. Wright weighs in...
Facebook
The U.S. Air Force Academy gives its cadets some unique opportunities. Ride along one of this opportunities.
Facebook
A United States Air Force KC-135 Stratotanker refuels an F-22 Raptor over northern Iraq, Nov. 6, 2019. U.S. Central Command operations deter adversaries and demonstrate support for allies and partners in the region. (Video by Staff Sgt. Daniel Snider)
Facebook
Although the Silver Star is the third-highest military medal, it's not given often. Today, TSgt Cody Smith was the 49th Special Tactics Airman to receive this medal since Sept. 11th, 2001. Read more of TSgt Smith's amazing story: https://www.airforcespecialtactics.af.mil/News/Article-Display/Article/2024815/special-tactics-airman-battled-through-injuries-awarded-silver-star/fbclid/IwAR2LZWwx1VHdTnQe39rIEBOuJS_0JvMQBBGt7I-E6zsxxn-Lx9387yu43Bc/ Cannon Air Force Base Air Force Special Operations Command United States Special Operations Command (USSOCOM) U.S. Department of Defense (DoD)
Facebook
Tune in as our Air Force musicians along with other military musicians are awarded the National Medal of Arts.
Facebook
Like Us
Twitter
1,280,552
Follow Us