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Throughout the history of the F-117, the unit flying the aircraft (now the 49th Fighter Wing, formerly the 37th Fighter Wing and 4450th Tactical Group) has routinely operated in a mode conducive to covert or clandestine operations. For over eight years, 1981 to 1989, the existence of the aircraft, and the unit function, was classified and not acknowledged by the Air Force or Department of Defense. The base of operations was classified and required special security clearance to get within 40 miles. All operations were limited to night activities. Hangar doors were not opened until complete darkness (30 minutes after civil twilight) and were never opened with interior lights on. All vehicles operated without headlights or illumination devices around the aircraft.
Unlike most stateside military duties requiring a daily commute from home, unit members deployed to work on a weekly basis. The "standard" pilot would drive to Nellis AFB, Nevada, on Monday morning, commute to Tonopah Test Range via charter air, and return home on Friday afternoon. Families were accustomed to the military member being deployed without explanation and often being out of communication for extended periods.