posted on Jun, 21 2004 @ 12:54 PM
F-117 STEALTH FIGHTER
The F-117A Nighthawk is the world's first operational aircraft designed
to exploit low-observable stealth technology. The unique design
of the single-seat F-117A provides exceptional combat capabilities.
About the size of an F-15 Eagle, the twin-engine aircraft is powered
by two General Electric F404 turbofan engines and has quadruple
redundant fly-by-wire flight controls. Air refuelable, it supports
worldwide commitments and adds to the deterrent strength of the
U.S. military forces.
The F-117A can employ a variety of weapons and is equipped with
sophisticated navigation and attack systems integrated into a state-of-the-art
digital avionics suite that increases mission effectiveness and
reduces pilot workload. Detailed planning for missions into highly
defended target areas is accomplished by an automated mission planning
system developed, specifically, to take advantage of the unique
capabilities of the F-117A.
The first stealth fighters were flown by Lockheed C-5 Galaxy cargo
plane to Groom Dry Lake, where they took to the air for the first
time in June 1981. Security was of a very extreme nature. Unauthorized
ground personnel were required to remain indoors when a stealth
jet emerged from its hangar. Test flights were made mostly at night,
their schedule arranged to avoid overflights by Soviet reconnaissance
satellites. The Nellis Range is also home to the Air Force's "Red
Flag" air combat exercises, which involve aircraft and pilots of
American and several foreign military aviation services. Those other
aircraft were kept away from the Groom area by an airborne screen
of security aircraft.
Despite the F-117A's 33 percent increase in physical size over
the prototype, the stealth fighter's RCS measured between .01 and
.001 square meters - about that of a small bird. For instance, compared
to a McDonnell Douglas F-4G Phantom typically used for "Wild Weasel"
anti-radar missions, which has a head-on RCS of 6 meters, the F-117
was able to get 90 percent closer to ground-based search radars,
and 98 percent closer to airborne radars, before being detected.
The first F-117A was delivered in 1982. The F-117A production
decision was made in 1978 with a contract awarded to Lockheed Advanced
Development Projects, the "Skunk Works," in Burbank, California.
The first flight was in 1981, only 31 months after the full-scale
development decision. Air Combat Command's only F-117A unit, the
4450th Tactical Group, (now the 49th Fighter Wing, Holloman Air
Force Base, N.M.), achieved operational capability in October 1983.
Having outgrown the Groom Lake facilities, the stealth unit operates
out of the remote Tonopah Test Range airfield in the northwest corner
of the Nellis Range. Although overlooked by public land, the Tonopah
facility is 40 desert miles from the nearest town.
Streamlined management by Aeronautical Systems Center, Wright-Patterson
AFB, Ohio, combined breakthrough stealth technology with concurrent
development and production to rapidly field the aircraft. The F-117A
program has demonstrated that a stealth aircraft can be designed
for reliability and maintainability. The aircraft maintenance statistics
are comparable to other tactical fighters of similar complexity.
Logistically supported by Sacramento Air Logistics Center, McClellan
AFB, California, the F-117A is kept at the forefront of technology
through a planned weapon system improvement program located at USAF
Plant 42 at Palmdale, California.
Aeronautical Systems Co.
No. of Engines:
Electric F404 engines
has also been noted that the F-117A contains experimental propulsion
technology possibly being Electro-gravitic systems.
information was used with permission from the Department of the