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On Nov. 11, 2023 the Evergreen Aviation & Space Museum in McMinnville, Oregon, welcomes the highly-anticipated arrival of the Lockheed F-117 Nighthawk, the famed stealth fighter plane known for its incredible radar reflecting technology. The aircraft is the brainchild of Lockheed Skunk Works Director, Ben Rich, and is the world’s first operational stealth fighter. The arrival marks the first time the aircraft will be available for public viewing in the Museum setting alongside other celebrated and rare aircraft, like the Hughes H-4 Hercules, more commonly known as the “Spruce Goose” and the Lockheed SR-71 Blackbird.
Guests are invited to come celebrate the F-117 (the first Nighthawk on display in the Pacific Northwest) in the Space Museum at 5:30 pm as we honor those who served on Veterans Day. The event will include experts presenting on the intricacies of the aircraft followed by a dramatic reveal and first-look before it undergoes a multi-year restoration. Guests will be able to interact with the F-117 up-close, a rare opportunity that not many have been able to do before. Tickets to this special event are $30, with half of each ticket sold supporting the restoration fund.
The tail number of this F-117 is 85-0816, and it has the unique nickname the “Lone Wolf.” The Lone Wolf was credited as dropping the first bomb in Desert Storm. Its first flight was on Oct. 30, 1985, with its first combat operation taking place in Operation Just Cause. During its career, the aircraft flew 39 combat missions in Desert Storm and eight missions during Operation Iraqi Freedom, before being retired on Oct. 12, 2007.
“Few individuals have been lucky enough to see this aircraft in person and we have the unique privilege of being the only museum in the Pacific Northwest to provide this experience to our guests,” says Evergreen Aviation & Space Museum CEO Tyson Weinert. “Sharing the Lone Wolf’s restoration journey from this first moment adds a new dimension to our community engagement.”
The F-117 will endure a transportation journey on a trailer over hundreds of miles to make its arrival at the Museum. The aircraft has been specially assigned by the US Air Force (USAF) to the Evergreen Aviation & Space Museum, one of about only five other F-117s available to view in museums throughout the US.
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 Jun. 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.
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.
Although the Air Force technically retired the F-117 fleet in 2008, there are sightings of them still flying, even in the past year, showing that the plane is still a technological marvel today.
For more details about the F-117 arrival celebration, visit the Museum’s events page.
Photo credit: Alissa Kobe / Evergreen Aviation & Space Museum
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