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F-117 possible AtA capability

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posted on Jun, 6 2020 @ 10:36 AM
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AtA - Air to Air

Short recap - back in February 2020, USAF Major Robert Donaldson appeared on the fighter pilot podcast. Back in the day, Donaldson flew the F-117 and the F-16. He started out when the Nighthawk was still black, participated in Desert Storm, and had about 600 hours in the type.
The interview is fairly straight forward, you can listen to it here:
www.fighterpilotpodcast.com...

What caused a bit of a stir are his comments that the Nighthawk had an Air to air capability.
The relevant part of the interview, around the 24:00 mark, as quoted by theavionist


“yes his primary role was attack but having said that, it could actually carry every munition in the inventory at the time of its insertion, with the exception of the Sparrow missile which was radar-guided so we could carry air-to-air missiles we could carry the full gamut of air-to-ground munitions and everything. So the f-117 designation has long been rumored and then postulated and and many beers have gone down about why it was as such but I think it was basically they just said – hey we don’t want to have anything really too extraordinary out there at all – but yes in all reality it is an attack jet but it did have a limited air-to-air capability.”

[...]

“our secondary role was to shoot down the Soviet AWACS. So yeah, we were invisible to their radar and we didn’t want them controlling their airspace so, either on the way in or on the way out you could add a Soviet AWACS paint it to the side of your aircraft”.


I first came across this in the comment section of thedrive months ago, but this week, theavionaist picked it up and wrote an article about this pretty extraordinary claim:
theaviationist.com...

They also put in a statement from Tyler Rogoway with his take on it:


Our friend Tyler Rogoway from The War Zone reached out to us with an interesting update on this previously unknown story that pretty much confirms this Author’s doubts and suggests the capability was indeed tested (BTW you may remember the interesting experimental campaign with external stores we reported about here), but never made into any operational form:

“It turns out that this was never an actual capability in any operational form whatsoever, but it was experimented with over the years in unique and intriguing ways, something we are detailing in a soon to be released special feature.”


The article was discussed on r/specialaccess as well and some other guy was able to talk to a former base historian of Holloman AFB. He was quite skeptical about the whole thing as well.
www.youtube.com...

Opinions, thoughts?

My take:
I vaguely remember very weak rumors about a nascent Sidewinder capability years ago. I don't think its necessarily impossible as a contingency for the big one over Europe.
The F-117 was able to carry a surprisingly wide array of weapons afterall.
On the other hand - this role and the described mission would also fit very well with a certain other aircraft mentioned here once or twice.




posted on Jun, 6 2020 @ 11:47 AM
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It does bring back visions of Red Storm Rising, but without mounting them internally I'm not sure how practical it would actually be. Too much RCS, and you'd be flying straight at the AWAC.



posted on Jun, 6 2020 @ 12:07 PM
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a reply to: hawkguy

I think I remember Tom Clancy saying that some government suits paid him a visit when he wrote that book.
How did you know about the stealth?

Apparently most of it was from aviation magazines..



posted on Jun, 6 2020 @ 12:11 PM
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I was at one time an air show media photojournalist when the F-117 was operational. There were tarmac rumors about an air to air system fitted to it. I would imagine that it would have been an internal rack that extended below the airframe but that would make it visible on radar. I do know that when flying into a civilian show or airport, the pilots had to dirty up the thing so the controllers could see it on radar. My personal opinion is the newer generations of stealth (F22/35) use a similar system that they were goofing around with.

The first time I saw an F-117 was at Selfrige ANG where it landed and was whisked into a hanger with MPs surrounding it during the show - a few flybys and then landed. In a stroke of military genius, they moved all of the parking area markers around when it taxied so nobody attending the show knew where their cars were in a display of true stealth deployment - we didn't know what hit us. Great fun.



posted on Jun, 6 2020 @ 12:14 PM
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a reply to: mightmight

I seem to recall the old Amiga version of F -117 allowing you to launch sidewinder and AMRAAM air to air missiles at a multitude of soviet era fighters and bombers.

Life imitating art?



posted on Jun, 6 2020 @ 12:17 PM
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a reply to: mightmight

The F117 has always been my favorite plane.

And despite it being retired, the Air force is still flying it.




posted on Jun, 6 2020 @ 12:23 PM
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a reply to: hawkguy

About the only way I could envision it working would be having the F117 coming low and slow, losing whatever RCS it had, not very much, in the ground clutter.

As I recall, and I'm no expert, the Sov AWACS were in no way as capable as NATO's versions.

Low and slow, then when the time came, pop up and shoot.

As I recall, Clancy's Ghostrider F119's did just that in his book.

But I'm no expert, as I said.



posted on Jun, 6 2020 @ 12:31 PM
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a reply to: seagull

In the book the ghost rider was at its best when the radar signal was shooting down at it.
It also had external instead of Internal weapons so that made more sense.



posted on Jun, 6 2020 @ 12:35 PM
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a reply to: Bluntone22

Yep.

I don't remember whether the actual f-117 had an internal bomb bay... I think it did, but don't recall just off the top of my head.



posted on Jun, 6 2020 @ 12:42 PM
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a reply to: mightmight

Thought that was pretty widely and credibly "speculated" publicly before. Head after force multipliers like AWACS and tankers. They also played around with external stores and conformal pods.



posted on Jun, 6 2020 @ 01:22 PM
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originally posted by: RadioRobert
Thought that was pretty widely and credibly "speculated" publicly before. Head after force multipliers like AWACS and tankers. They also played around with external stores and conformal pods.


The external stores were known for a long time. It's possible the pilot was just referring to this capability and it got further along in testing than advertised.
If you are going in low against an air threat you could probably get away with external stores back then.



posted on Jun, 6 2020 @ 01:52 PM
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a reply to: mightmight

I would imagine it was not terribly difficult to put a rail or two on the trapeze, given the way the bay opens. No need for externals for something like a Sidewinder. Develop externals for fuel, sensors, or the JSOWs.



posted on Jun, 6 2020 @ 02:22 PM
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a reply to: seagull

I'm sure I read an interview with a F117 Pilot somewhere not that many years after Desert Storm that the Payload were loaded on a retractable dolly which was forced quickly down and up though the bomb doors and up to minimise the duration of the radar sig.

The same article also mentioned that Air to Air missiles "could" be used if needed. But when deployed in desert storm they learned though combat that the best to use the stealth was simply to keep delivering big payloads by an invisible target and just get the hell outta dodge.

Just going by memory .. so might be off.



posted on Jun, 6 2020 @ 02:26 PM
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a reply to: RadioRobert

I don't think it would be too difficult either.
I'm quite certain the F-117 could have carried JSOW internally. There are pictures of it carrying JASSMs after all.
There was Have Slick though, a LO conformal cruise missile to be carried externally by the F-117.

Another possibility for an AtA capability would be an externally carried conformal AtA missile. Say something like a low tech Have Dash.
edit on 6-6-2020 by mightmight because: (no reason given)



posted on Jun, 6 2020 @ 02:42 PM
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a reply to: mightmight




posted on Jun, 6 2020 @ 04:26 PM
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originally posted by: andy06shake
a reply to: mightmight

I seem to recall the old Amiga version of F -117 allowing you to launch sidewinder and AMRAAM air to air missiles at a multitude of soviet era fighters and bombers.

Life imitating art?
]

Can also confirm that sidewinders were available on old Amstrad version of f117 flight sim.



posted on Jun, 6 2020 @ 05:30 PM
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a reply to: homerJ

My mate had one of those with a green screen monitor.

I had a Spectrum 48k and then my beloved Commodore C64 at the time.

Loved the old flight sims, mind before hills and 3d terrain was an actual thing? LoL
edit on 6-6-2020 by andy06shake because: (no reason given)



posted on Jun, 6 2020 @ 07:30 PM
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One aircraft had an LPI PESA radar installed as a test article, but it was never used operationally. That would have given them access to the AIM-7 and -120. There were rumors of a test firing of an AIM-9 on the ground, but the aircraft suffered damage to the RAM around the weapons bays.



posted on Jun, 6 2020 @ 07:40 PM
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a reply to: Zaphod58

I've heard some horror stories about the F-117's RAM from maintainers, nasty nasty nasty stuff.



posted on Jun, 6 2020 @ 08:33 PM
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a reply to: Masisoar

Yeah, right up until the last upgrade of skin that was not something you wanted to mess with. And if it caught fire, good luck with that, because it wasn't going out easy.



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