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F-117A to be honored at ceremony

Posted 4/8/2008   Updated 4/8/2008 Email story   Print story


Release Number: 080305

4/8/2008 - HOLLOMAN AIR FORCE BASE, N.M. -- A retirement ceremony to honor the contributions of the F-117A Nighthawk will take place at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base Tuesday, March 11 at 10 a.m.
The retirement ceremony is not open to the general public, however, Air Force employees, retirees and family members with base access are welcome to attend. The ceremony will take place at Base Operations Hangar 206N where an F-117A will be on static displayed. The ceremony will conclude at 10:25 a.m. with a flyover of an F-117A with a ceremonial red, white and blue paint scheme. The Air Force's decision to accelerate retirement of the stealth fighter fleet will allow funding for the F-22A Raptor, which will arrive at Holloman beginning in the summer of 2008.
Ten aircraft were retired in Fiscal Year 2007 and 27 so far in 2008. Holloman's remaining aircraft will go into storage at Tonopah Test Range, Nevada, following a retirement ceremony here on April 21. "The Nighthawk was designed in the late 1970s and first flew in June 1981, more than a quarter of a century ago. The last F-117A was delivered to the Air Force from Lockheed in 1990. It's been a reliable and effective airplane, but it is wearing out," said Mr. Arlan Ponder, 49th Fighter Wing Public Affairs. "The Air Force has never in its history had such an aged fleet as it
does now. With the increased capability of standoff weapons systems, advancements in unmanned air systems, and procurement of other advanced stealth platforms such as the F-22A and Joint Strike Fighter, it is appropriate from both a cost and capability perspective to begin retiring our F-117A aircraft - though it is hard to see the black jets leave the Otero County skies." A total of 59 production black jets were built with only seven having been lost. While not invisible to radar, the Nighthawk' s distinctive, faceted shape and a special low observable coating combined to greatly reduce its radar cross section and any adversary's ability to target it. Although the strike aircraft has been in service for 27 years, its existence was first publicly acknowledged only in November 1988, when the Air Force released a grainy photograph of a Nighthawk in flight. Its first formal public appearance came in April 1990 at Nellis AFB, Nevada. Nighthawk static displays and flyovers would soon attract large crowds at air shows across the country and around the world. In the program's early years, Airmen from the 4450th Test Group assigned at Nellis would commute via contracted airlift to the Tonopah from which the F-117s flew almost exclusively at night. Later, publicly acknowledging the fighter became a priority to enable daylight flying, as well as exercise and deployment participation and full integration into the combat air forces. Men and women associated with the 4450th Test Group continued to fly and maintain the F-117A at Tonopah as members of the 37th Tactical Fighter Wing. The F-117A fleet relocated to Holloman and reflagged to the 49th Fighter Wing in 1992, where the active fleet remains today. Combat debut for the F-117A came in December 1989, during Operational Just Cause when Maj. Gregory Feest led a flight of two jets which dropped laser-guided bombs to shock Panamanian Defense Forces in preparation for an assault by U.S. Army Rangers. Feest and the F-117A would return to combat in January 1991, when Night hawks opened Operation Desert Storm destroying critical and highly defended targets throughout Iraq and Kuwait. Despite thousands of anti-aircraft guns and batteries of surface-to-air missiles, F-117s flew with impunity over Baghdad precisely striking targets with its payload of two 2,000 lb.
GBU-27 laser-guided weapons. The jet's combination of stealth and precision made it the natural choice for opening strikes over the former Yugoslavia during Operation Allied Force in 1999 and again over Iraq during Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2003.
"I've never climbed into a Stealth to strap it on when I haven't marveled at the true
bizarreness of the airplane," said Lt. Col. Pete York, 8th Fighter Squadron. "There has never been another aircraft that looks or acts like it....ever." News media interested in attending the retirement ceremony should contact Mr. Derek Kaufman, 88th ABW Public Affairs, (937) 522-3522, derek.kaufman@wpafb.af.mil, before 3:30
p.m, Monday, March 10. (Portions of this story were provided by the 88th ABW Public Affairs Office.)

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