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The Lockheed F-117A was not only the world’s first operational stealth aircraft, but also one of the most secret plane ever developed.
Conceived for night secret missions, the “Nighthawk” was restricted to fly only with darkness. In fact, in each operation from “Just Cause” in 1989 to “Iraqi Freedom” in 2003, the F-117s only flew after sunset.
Even if one example was lost in 1999 near Belgrade during “Operation Allied Force“, the F-117A unique design, which consisted in blending different angles, made the aircraft very hard to detect by the air defense systems.
But, low observability to radar alone was not sufficient to guarantee the plane to fly undetected through the enemy airspaces.
During the development of the F-117, the Skunk Works (the Lockheed legendary division that designed secret aircraft) found that to evade visual detection the best solution was a paint scheme in different shades of gray.