Military Aviation

Cool photos show stripped down F-117A Nighthawk being delivered to Hill Aerospace Museum

‘A BIG day at the Hill Aerospace Museum! Our new F-117 Nighthawk arrived today, all the way from Tonopah, Nevada.’

Hill Aerospace Museum has just received its own F-117A Nighthawk stealth fighter to be put on display.

‘A BIG day at the Hill Aerospace Museum! Our new F-117 Nighthawk arrived today, all the way from Tonopah, Nevada. We’ll attach the wings, vertical stabilizers and some other things, and then it will finally get a new paint job. A huge vote of thanks to the crew from Tonopah and Hill Air Force Base. You will be able to see the aircraft next week in the Lindquist Stewart Gallery,’ the museum says on its Facebook page.

According to Scramble Magazine, the aircraft, F-117A 82-0799/HO (msn A4024) arrived at the museum without its RAM (Radar Absorbent Material), from Tonopah Test Range.

As already reported, on Dec. 7, 2019 another Nighthawk, F-117 #803’s nickname “Unexpected Guest,” was put on display at the Ronald Reagan library.

Lockheed Martin Skunk Works and the Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation and Institute partnered on the permanent static display for “Unexpected Guest.”

The joint project referred to as “Operation Nighthawk Landing” was made possible by a permanent loan to the Reagan Foundation from the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force. To support the Air Force in their loan, the Lockheed Martin Skunk Works restored the aircraft in preparation for its permanent exhibition at the Reagan Library.

The Lockheed F-117A was developed in response to an Air Force request for an aircraft capable of attacking high value targets without being detected by enemy radar. By the 1970s, new materials and techniques allowed engineers to design an aircraft with radar-evading or “stealth” qualities. The result was the F-117A, the world’s first operational stealth aircraft.

The first F-117A flew on June 18, 1981, and the first F-117A unit, the 4450th Tactical Group (renamed the 37th Tactical Fighter Wing in October 1989), achieved initial operating capability in October 1983. The F-117A first saw combat during Operation Just Cause on Dec. 19, 1989, when two F-117As from the 37th TFW attacked military targets in Panama.

The F-117A again went into action during Operation Desert Shield/Storm in 1990-1991 when the 415th and the 416th squadrons of the 37th TFW moved to a base in Saudi Arabia. During Operation Desert Storm, the F-117As flew 1,271 sorties, achieving an 80 percent mission success rate, and suffered no losses or battle damage.

The Nighthawk took part also to Operation Allied Force (the NATO bombing campaign launched to halt the humanitarian catastrophe that was then unfolding in Kosovo) where F-117A, Air Force serial number 82-0806, callsign “Vega 31” flown by Lt. Col. Dale Zelko, was shot down on Mar. 27, 1999 by an SA-3 Goa surface to air missile fired by the 3rd Battalion of the 250th Air Defence Missile Brigade of the Army of Yugoslavia, under the command of Colonel Zoltan Dani.

On Mar. 19, 2003 the F-117s performed the airstrikes over Baghdad that marked the beginning of Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIR).

The decision by the Air Force to accelerate the retirement of the F-117 led to the arrival of the F-22A Raptor, another stealth “fighter,” at Holloman in Jun. 2008.

The last F-117s left Holloman in April 2008 with a stop at their birthplace in Palmdale, California, before ending up in their final resting place where their historic journey began in 1981 – Tonopah Test Range, Nevada. The aircraft were placed in Type 1000 storage in the event they were ever called back into duty (in fact there have been many reported sightings and pictures of the aircraft flying since then…).

In late 2008, one Nighthawk paid the ultimate sacrifice as it was mechanically shredded to see if it could be recycled or scraped due to the hazardous materials used in its construction.

A total of 59 F-117As were built between 1981 and 1990. In 1989 the F-117A was awarded the Collier Trophy, one of the most prized aeronautical awards in the world.

This print is available in multiple sizes from AircraftProfilePrints.com – CLICK HERE TO GET YOURS.  F-117A Nighthawk (Stealth) 49th OG, 8th FS “The Black Sheep Squadron”, HO/88-843, Holoman AFB, NM – 2008

Photo credit: Hill Aerospace Museum

Dario Leone

Dario Leone is an aviation, defense and military writer. He is the Founder and Editor of “The Aviation Geek Club” one of the world’s most read military aviation blogs. His writing has appeared in The National Interest and other news media. He has reported from Europe and flown Super Puma and Cougar helicopters with the Swiss Air Force.

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