It looks like you're using an Ad Blocker.

Please white-list or disable in your ad-blocking tool.

Thank you.


Some features of ATS will be disabled while you continue to use an ad-blocker.


How the "Black Jet" became the "Grey Dragon"

page: 1

log in


posted on Feb, 25 2013 @ 10:36 AM
This is a pretty interesting read. It's the story behind the only grey F-117 in the US inventory. The F-117 was designed to fly at night, so the USAF chose to paint them black, to make them harder to see. Lockheed told them repeatedly that they had found that multi-shaded grey was better, and would allow them to operate during daylight missions as well. In 2003, they painted one aircraft grey, to test it during daylight operations. It was found that the black was the worst color for flying when the sun was up, but the grey worked really well.

The aircraft (flown by the 53rd Test and Evaluation Squadron, Detachment 1) flew 2 missions a day, during daylight hours, and showed good results. It was also upgraded with new software and hardware, and the paint was tested to see how it affected maintenance of the aircraft as well. In 2005, when the question came up as to whether the Air Force would paint the fleet grey, they chose to retire them. The "Grey Dragon" was officially retired in 2007.

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.

posted on Feb, 27 2013 @ 05:48 PM
Actually, there were at least six gray F-117A stealth fighters.

The first five Full-Scale Development airframes (Articles 780, 781, 782, 783, and 784) were painted overall light gray during early testing. FSD-1 (Article 780) made its initial flights in a desert camouflage scheme before being painted in the proposed production gray scheme. Ben Rich, head of Lockheed's Skunk Works, personally preferred gray and would have delivered the entire fleet in gray, but chief of Tactical Air Command, Gen. William Creech, wanted black since he felt it would better mask the faceting and their shadows during the day. "You don't ask the commander of TAC why he wants to do something. He pays the bills," Rich later recalled. "The Skunk Works plays by the Golden Rule: he who has the gold sets the rules! If the general had wanted pink, we'd have painted them pink."

In July 1993, FSD-3 (Article 782) was painted once again in a gray scheme for daylight visibility tests. During the trials, known as Project Evening Shade, the pilots used the call sign GRAY GHOST. The airplane was repainted overall black in October 1993.

In December 2003, Article 835 was painted in the same scheme as the F-22A for another set of daylight visibility tests undertaken by the Dragon Test Team OT&E group at Holloman. Known as "The Gray Dragon, " it wore this paint scheme until its retirement in March 2007.

During 2005, FSD-4 (Article 783) was repainted in an overall gray scheme for similar tests at Palmdale.

posted on Feb, 28 2013 @ 04:25 PM
reply to post by Shadowhawk

sounds like typical military industrial complex. if they repainted & upgraded F-117 in grey with new ECM, then somebody would (rightfully) ask, "why are we spending so much more money on F-22 and especially the damned F-35, now that I found out you were lying about the F-117 not being capable in day."

So they canceled it.

posted on Mar, 1 2013 @ 12:24 AM
reply to post by mbkennel

The F-22 and the F-35 both have more advanced stealth capabilities than the F-117. They also perform vastly different missions than the Nighthawk did, as both have air to air capability. You're comparing apples to oranges. The F-117 was old, and it was going to be expensive to upgrade the stealth capabilities to keep up with newer threats.

posted on Mar, 1 2013 @ 08:31 AM
reply to post by mbkennel

The F-117A was retired because it was it was largely out of date 1970s technology that had been upgraded as far as it could go. The F-22 and F-35 are several generations more modern in terms of overall technology and low observables (stealth). The newer planes have a high acquisition cost, but the F-117A was expensive to maintain. In order to remove a panel, the radar absorbent material (RAM) had to be scraped off, and reapplied afterward. On the F-35, the RAM is built into easily removable panels. The F-117A had only one combat capability as a tactical bomber that could only carry two weapons. The F-22 can be used in a variety of roles beyond simply as an air superiority fighter. When I first heard that the F-22 could be used in the same type of mission scenario as the F-117A, I was skeptical. After it was explained to me, it made perfect sense.

posted on Mar, 1 2013 @ 10:26 AM
Plus, the roles of the F-22 and F-35 are rather different and more versatile than that of the F-117.

The Nighthawk's 'F' designation is somewhat confusing, and possibly to hush-up the true capabilities of the F-117 as a deep-penetrating strike aircraft. It was never designed for dogfighting, or Air Superiority like the Raptor, and didn't have the multirole capability of the turkey (my designation for the F-35
) However, as a deep-strike platform, indications are that it was superb.

posted on Mar, 1 2013 @ 01:48 PM
The only reason the F-117A received an "F" designation is that the SENIOR TREND FSD prototypes were tested under the designation YF-117A. The use of nonstandard YF designations for "black projects" aircraft was started with Project HAVE DOUGHNUT in 1968, and continues to this day. The numbering order is essentially random and the YF prefix, which ordinarily denotes a prototype fighter, is applied regardless of aircraft type. When SENIOR TREND went operational, it was just easier to keep the F-117A designation and drop the Y (prototype) prefix. It's the same lazy approach to assigning numbers as going from X-35 to F-35, or changing the P-170 into the RQ-170.

new topics

top topics


log in