The US Air Force announces plans to retire the F-117 Nighthawk from the air fleet. Marking the end of an era, the world's first operational stealth
warplane is set to take it's place in aviation history. Maj. John Mihaly, chief of the 49th Fighter Wing Integration Office, said that by the end of
2008, the last F-117 will be retired from US Air Force service.
HOLLOMAN AIR FORCE BASE — The stealth fighter once called the "hopeless diamond" because it's odd radar-dispersing geometry made it an
improbable flier is on its way out at Holloman Air Force Base near Alamogordo, but it will be replaced by one of the forces' newest gems, the F-22
Although F-117 pilots defend their beloved stealth Nighthawk, which is still flying vital missions, the base's new commander, Brig. Gen. David L.
Goldfein, said the F-22 can perform missions done by at least four other aircraft "equally as well, and in many cases, better."
The Raptor, he said, can engage in combat with other fighters, execute strikes deep into heavily defended target areas, perform precision bombing
missions like the F-117, provide close support for ground forces and more.
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I have mixed feeling about the retirement of the F-117. The Nighthawk has always been an awe-inspiring aircraft, even if is ugly to look at. The
F-117 brought an aura of mystery to the air force ever since its first major combat operation in the 1991 Gulf War. Even though I often gripe about it
in the aircraft forum, I feel like aviation is loosing something special with the retirement for the Nighthawk.
Most people my age can probably remember sitting in their living room as children, hearing about the ghostly Black Jets of Desert Storm that bombed
Iraqi military targets before disappearing into the night. It was these operations that made the F-117 an icon of US air power for millions.
Now that the Nighthawk is retiring to take its place in history, it feels like there is a void in the air force. Sure technology evolves, and the
military moves on. However, aviation, like everything else has its legends. In the 25 years that it has served in the defense of the US, it defined
for itself a unique place in the lore of aviation history. Few other planes have ever seemed as ghostly. Even at an airshow, when you stood at the
rope to look upon the plane, it was distant and forbidding in nature.
Now in the twilight of it's career, the Nighthawk leaves with many secrets in tow. Things like it true top speed, and its RCS, have never been
disgusting with the press announcements and fanfare, the plane seems to be pulling it's last great stealth disappearing act: Vanishing once more into
the shadows, it's greatest secrets still hidden in a cloak of mystery.
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Thought the F-117's were all headed for museums or the boneyard? Well, Think
[edit on 5/2/2007 by Mirthful Me]