The Lockheed F-117 Nighthawk is the America’s single-seat and twin-engine stealth fighter jet that had been developed by the Lockheed Martin back in the 1970s by its Skunk Work division in complete secrecy and was directly under control of the USAF.
The Lockheed F-117 Nighthawk is the world’s first ever stealth aircraft that took its first flight back in 1981 from the Groom Lake Air Base located in Nevada. The aircraft achieved its operational capability back in 1983 and it was not until 1988 that it was revealed to the general public. Nearly 69 of these Lockheed F-117 Nighthawks were developed with 59 being of the production versions while 5 of them being the prototype versions.
The very first time the Lockheed F-117 Nighthawk was renowned for its combat abilities was during eh Persian Gulf War held back in 1991. While it had been labeled as a stealth fighter, it served its purpose mostly as a ground attack fighter. The only reported Lockheed F-117 Nighthawk to be lost in combat was back in 1999 when one of it was shot down by a SAM (Surface-to-air missile) during the conflict of Yugoslavia. After the USAF entered the F-22 raptor in its fleet of stealth fighters, the Lockheed F-117 Nighthawk was retired by the USAF back in 2008.
For our readers we have gathered a bunch of amazing facts about the Lockheed F-117 Nighthawk; the World’s first ever stealth fighter.
World’s First Ever Stealth Fighter
The time to start conceiving the Lockheed F-117 Nighthawk started back in 1978 and the whole program from its design to manufacturing and to testing was carried out in complete secrecy. It was not until 1988 that the aircraft’s information was revealed to the public. The very first aerial combat mission that the Lockheed F-117 Nighthawk took was back in 1989 and it was against the Panamanian dictatorship of Manuel Noriega.
The mission was carried out by 2 of the Lockheed F-117 Nighthawks against the Panamanian Special Forces as they laded tow successful mission strikes over their forces without ever being detected. This successful mission started the era for this stealth bomber that could invade deep into the enemy’s territory without getting detected to deal heavy damage.
A single Lockheed F-117 Nighthawk was powered by two of the General Eclectic F404-F1D2 turbofan engines with each of them able to generate a thrust of 10600 lb/ft.
These engines allowed the Lockheed F-117 Nighthawk to have a top speed of Mach 0.92 at an altitude of 45000 feet and able to cover a range of 1070 miles.
The estimated unit cost of a Lockheed F-117 Nighthawk is about 111.2 million dollars without adding in the research and development costs.
The combat history of the Lockheed F-117 Nighthawk started after its successful missions in Panama. From there on it went on to serve in the multiple world conflicts notably being the following.
- Persian Gulf War
- Conflict of Bosnia-Herzegovina
- Iraq War
The only Lockheed F-117 Nighthawk lost by USAF was back on March 27th, 1999 during the conflict of Yugoslavia when a surface to air missile shot one down.
State of the art design:-
The unique design of the Lockheed F-117 Nighthawk is the result of over the decade long efforts carried out by Lockheed Martin. The screens covered its jet outlets used to spray exhaust to reduce its radar cross-section by a huge margin. The aircraft’s design was created to allow it to dispel any sort of energies directed towards. This allowed it to become one of the best air force arsenals for US army back in the 90s.
In order to make sure that no energy could be reflected back to the enemy’s radar; the Lockheed F-117 Nighthawk was stripped off its own radar system and communication antenna.
While the Lockheed F-117 Nighthawk excelled in doing stealth bombing missions, its capacity to bear weapons was limited by its stealth technology. The weapons had to be located in the internal bombing bay thus affecting the amount of how much ordinance it could carry.
With the Lockheed F-117 Nighthawk being stripped off of its radar and communication antenna, its bombing ability was also hampered by a lot. This was the reason that the Lockheed F-117 Nighthawk had the miss rate of nearly 40 percent against aerial threats during the Iraq War.
Each of the Lockheed F-117 Nighthawk was only able to carry 2 of the laser-guided precision bombs. When these bombs were deployed by the Lockheed F-117 Nighthawk, the commander had to keep in view about a certain degree of error as well that made the Lockheed F-117 Nighthawk to have a distinct disadvantage against other conventional bombers.
The only advantage which is better to be called luck was that sometimes these bombs would strike a target without the aircraft ever getting detected.
One of a kind Technology:-
The technology incorporated in the Lockheed F-117 Nighthawk was so one of a kind that both Russians and Chinese had to wait for one of the Lockheed F-117 Nighthawk to be shot down during the conflict of Bosnia to develop their own stealth technologies.
After one of the Lockheed F-117 Nighthawk was shot down by the Serbian Air Forces in 1998, the Russian forces quickly engaged to collect and then inspect the wreckage. The first report of the Russian engineers was an aircraft design that was virtually invisible to the radar technology of that era.
The Lockheed F-117 Nighthawk went on to serve the USAF until 2008 and was only retired after the fifth-generation fighters such as F-22 Raptor, F-35 Lightning II came into being. Other than that no other 4th generation fighter could compete with the Lockheed F-117 Nighthawk’s stealth technology.