Losses and Aviation Safety

“One of the F-117s secretly deployed to the middle East to take part in OIR made emergency landing in Kuwait,” Scramble Magazine Says

During the aforementioned landing, which occurred during dawn, the unfortunate F-117 Nighthawk was accompanied by its wingman. The latter did not land at AAS, but continued its route to its deployment base…

As we highlighted after last month F-117 flights spotted in Nevada and Eastern California, Scramble Magazine “Back in 2017, Scramble received very reliable information that at least four F-117s were deployed to the Middle East as an operational need emerged for the USAF to resurrect the stealth F-117 for special purposes. One of the deployed aircraft was involved in an in-flight emergency and landed far away from its temporary home base that was likely located in Saudi Arabia, the UAE or Qatar.

“During this extremely covert deployment the four Nighthawks flew missions over Syria and Iraq with Small Diameter Bombs (SDBs).

Now, Scramble Facebook News Magazine provides further information (which appeared on Scramble Magazine hardcopy – issue 479 – that was published on Apr. 9, 2019) about the F-117 saga

“Recent years have seen some peculiar facts related to the Operation Inherent Resolve (OIR), the combined operation to defeat ISIS/Daesh, in and over Iraq and Syria. This operation was largely manned and staffed by USAF personnel, but allied nations were invited to join the operation. During the OIR heydays some 36 countries were involved.

“Scramble has spoken to former OIR members (originating from at least two other countries than USA) and we can reveal that one F-117A made an emergency landing at the airbase of Ali Al Salem (AAS) in Kuwait during Q4/2016 (AAS is known as the nearest allied fixed wing airfield south of Iraq).

“Ever since the beginning of being used by the US and allies, Ali Al Salem is renowned because of its secret spaces and hide-outs. This can evidently be seen on Google Earth. The above mentioned facts are (were) possibly the reasons for using AAS as a Nighthawk alternate or emergency landing base.

“During the aforementioned landing, which occurred during dawn, the unfortunate Nighthawk was accompanied by its wingman. The latter did not land at AAS, but continued its route to its deployment base. This scene was seen by some lucky OIR personnel. One of these personnel managed to make a poor quality long distance iPhone-picture of the (chase) landing of the two birds, followed by the broken aircraft standing at one of the tarmacs of AAS. Without any doubt, this was at AAS, as infrastructure characteristics and then deployed aircraft to AAS were clearly identified together with the broken F-117A.

“We reported earlier about the Small Diameter Bombs (SDB) in combination with the Nighthawk missions. These weapons were possibly used in deliberate (moving) targeting, in that way the US could minimize casualties during their undisclosed missions deep into Syria in which other US aircraft were not selected (not even stealthy F-22s, maybe because it was too sensitive to send an expensive Raptor that deep into Assads territory). As the F-117s possibly returned due to unfinished business, the Nighthawks were also used over the densely populated Mosul area (with narrow streets and fortified bunkers) during the Battle of Mosul.

“This sometimes very technical targeting, in combination with stealth (not necessary in Iraq) and slow speed, was something an F-22, F-15, B-1, B-52 and F-16 were not capable of doing.

“As for the SDBs … this is somewhat questionable if the F-117 indeed used this very smart and precise weapon. As far as we know, the One One Seven was never certified for use of this weapon. Maybe that information is incorrect and as it goes… not all brands of Cola are Coca Cola, but many people order it like that. As the SDB was the weapon of choice in OIR, a verdict is done quite quickly. But … there is also a possibility that the F-117 was certified to use SDBs during their secretive test flights from Tonopah. And that also makes sense, as the stand-off range of an SDB is limited (some sixty miles), the stealth F-117s could fly closer to their targets in Assad territory – heavily guarded by a massive belt of air defense systems – to drop their weapons on a target.

“As for the quantity of F-117As deployed we have been told that there were at least four aircraft involved. The deployment base was most probably in Qatar or Saudi Arabia. We can confirm that they flew only during nighttime and strikingly, they used call sign: HELI. This name was most probably chosen as HELI gave less attention in the Air Tasking Order (ATO) of OIR that is observed by many military. As known, several (secretive) helicopter operations also took place throughout the whole OIR area of operations. Strikingly, the F-117 flight through Death Valley used LEHI as call sign.

“For now, with the vanishing of most terrorists (ISIS) from Iraqi and Syrian territory, it seems that the USAF found, once again, an opportunity to show the Nighthawk in the open. Flying low and slow buzzing Death Valley, with even a waving pilot in its office, the pilot knew he and his fantastic aircraft were watched and photographed by some very lucky people!

Dan Stijovich Via Scramble Magazine Facebook Page

“An educated guess of Scramble is that these out-in-the-open flights possibly could mean (again, it is just an educated guess) that the test flights of the F-117s are ended and this was a kind of an unofficial farewell flight.

“Hopefully, again more information will become available in the near future, and hopefully our educated guess is wrong!

“Scramble editorial note: The owner of the iPhone is trustful. Unfortunately, he was not allowed to give us the pictures of AAS as scrupulous rules were given to all AAS and OIR personnel about the emergency landing at that time. (but we can assure you, although of poor quality, they looked adrenaline-kicking great!). Following the F-117s flights through Death Valley, the involved person consulted a high ranking OIR commander who gave permission to publish the aforementioned words.”

The F-117A Nighthawk is the world’s first operational aircraft designed to exploit low-observable stealth technology. This precision-strike aircraft penetrates high-threat airspace and uses laser-guided weapons against critical targets.

The first F-117A was delivered in 1982, and the last delivery was in the summer of 1990. Air Combat Command’s only F-117A unit, the 4450th Tactical Group, (now the 49th Fighter Wing, Holloman Air Force Base, N.M.), achieved operational capability in October 1983.

During Operation Desert Storm in 1991, F-117A’s flew approximately 1,300 sorties and scored direct hits on 1,600 high-value targets in Iraq. It was the only U.S. or coalition aircraft to strike targets in downtown Baghdad. Since moving to Holloman AFB in 1992, the F-117A and the men and women of the 49th Fighter Wing have deployed to Southwest Asia more than once. On their first trip, the F-117s flew non-stop from Holloman to Kuwait, a flight of approximately 18.5 hours — a record for single-seat fighters that stands today.

In 1999, 24 F-117A’s deployed to Aviano Air Base, Italy, and Spangdahlem AB, Germany, to support NATO’s Operation Allied Force. The aircraft led the first Allied air strike against Yugoslavia on March 24, 1999.

Returning to the skies over Baghdad, F-117A’s launched Operation Iraqi Freedom with a decapitation strike on March 20, 2003. Striking key targets in the toppling of Saddam Hussein’s regime, 12 deployed F-117s flew more than 100 combat sorties in support of the global war on terrorism.

Officially the last F-117s left Holloman AFB 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 according to Scramble Magazine “ever since some fifty F-117As were retired from active duty in 2008, Nighthawk test-flying had been observed more often in the surroundings of Nevada’s Tonopah Test Range Airport, a part of Groom Lake or Area 51. The second half of 2016, the USAF revealed multiple Nighthawk sorties during daylight and even formation flying was witnessed.”

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: U.S. Air Force

Artwork courtesy of AircraftProfilePrints.com

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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