As the video (filmed by Randy Bugni) and the photo (taken by Instagram user corryismigratoryman) in this post show, the stealth jets are currently training with the 144th FW F-15 C/D Eagle air superiority fighters.
According to The Sandboxx, the Nighthawks deployed to Fresno to square off against the air superiority jets in what are expected to be training missions meant to prepare the Air National Guard’s F-15s and their pilots for the threat posed by stealthy foreign fighters like China’s J-20 and Russia’s Su-57.
The semi-retired F-117 is the world’s first operational stealth aircraft. The Nighthawk is a single-seat, twin-engine stealth attack aircraft. Only 64 were ever built and first flew in 1981. The US Air Force (USAF) “Retired” the fighter in 2008.
Even though officially retired, several have been kept air-worthy for just this type of training.
Actually, several Nighthawks have been spotted in the skies over the Southwest United States several times after its official retirement, serving as largely un-acknowledged aggressor platforms in training flights against America’s fighters. Nevertheless, the USAF has largely opted not to formally acknowledge their roles, or even their presence, in these flights. This week’s deployment of the F-117s to Fresno, may be the first time the USAF officials have gone on record regarding the use of these unusual aircraft who are likely operated by contractors, rather than active duty Air Force pilots.
Even though air-to-air training is the most logical explanation for the F-117 Nighthawks’ arrival in Fresno, the Air National Guard has not confirmed that assertion.
The 144th FW flew the F-16 Fighting Falcon multirole fighter aircraft until June 2013, when the unit started the conversion process to the F-15C Eagle with the arrival of the first of 21 F-15 Eagles. The last F-16 departed on November 7, 2013 and the wing was declared a fully operational capable F-15 Eagle unit on Jun. 23, 2016.
The 144th Fighter Wing’s primary federal mission is to provide air defense protection for California and the United States from the Mexican border to Oregon.
The 144th also supports the nation’s Counter Drug Program and responds to state emergencies when requested by the Governor of California.
Photo credit: corryismigratoryman
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