F-117s Back in the Air

Continuing today’s theme of weird stuff in the sky, check out this video of an F-117A Nighthawk stealth fighter ripping through desert airspace over a U.S. military installation. What’s interesting is that the cameraman claims it was shot in July, 2010, several years after the jets were retired and placed in protective storage at the Air Force’s remote Tonopah Test Range Airport in Nevada.

While there’s nothing in the video to verify the date other than the cameraman’s voice, rumors have been circulating for a while now that some of the F-117s are back in the air.

If this is true, the jets are likely being used to test out new radars, countermeasures or other technology having to do with low-observables. (Or the F-35 is so behind schedule that the Air Force needs the Nighthawks to bolster the F-22 and B-2 stealth jet fleets. Ok, so that’s not very likely.)

  • chaos0xomega

    Badger Ops… thats all I’m sayin’…

    • Thud105

      ^^^^This is BEAUTIFUL!!! Farva, is that you?

  • Justin H

    Answer me this. Was the F-117 operationally retired or fully retired?

    • Mike

      Justin, they were “operationally” retired. They just took the wings off and are being stored at Tonopah airfield, about 140 miles north of Las Vegas. If needed, they could bolt the wings back on, make a few adjustments, fuel em up, and hit the skies again.

  • Benjamin

    It would be a good aircraft to use to test our new generation radars against. Maybe they built some unmanned versions like they are doing to older F-16’s to test missiles. It will be interesting if the story is true.

  • Andrew

    Prepping for a strike against Iran perhaps? We would need all the stealth aircraft we could get.

    • http://twitter.com/Cr4shDummy @Cr4shDummy

      Don’t think an attack on Iran is imminent. Last time I checked, Afghanistan, Somalia, Pakistan, and Yemen were our current hot-spots.

    • KBG

      Also not entirely necessary. Iran still uses Soviet-era radar, and can be spoofed or evaded without the use of traditional “low observables.”

      Syria uses the much of the same radar technology, and we’ve spoofed them in the past as well.

  • Belesari

    I figure they are using it for test perposes.

    Most foreign stealth tech is probably about as good as the 117 (just realised the master chief was john 117 in halo hmm. Wonders if someone got the idea for it from a certain black jet?) so they may be trying out different systems. Maybe also working on unmanned systems for a future project.

    While i will critisize the AF for some things they can be damn genius about making crazy stuff out of old things.

    • Wildcard

      I think your under estimating foreign tech… In direct comparison to the 117, the Germans had a prototype that used fewer facets and is reported to exceed the 117′ stealth capabilities.
      Whilst there are no real RCS numbers avail, its fair to say ‘Pak-Fa’, and European ventures would exceed the 117′ 29 year old tech.

    • Kev

      On the Halo theory I think the reference is to the Bible (John 1:17 For the law came through Moses and grace and truth through Jesus Christ.)

  • Han Solo

    OR someone has decided they need something to take out the SAM sites in the attack on Iran that is coming soon.

    • Jacob

      Iran is a third-rate military power and a joke. If we sent our air force at them it’d be a one-way slaughter just like Desert Storm.

      • Mark

        Dismissing Iran as third-rate military power is a sure-fire way to get your ass handed to you. That said, I would not underestimate Iran and they’re no Iraq.

  • Locarno

    Whilst none are in service yet, export versions of the F-35, early variants of the PAK-FA, assorted low radar signature european UCAVs, etc, means that the USAF and Army ADF units need to start thinking carefully about their own counter-stealth doctrine.

    Pulling F-117s for test aircraft seems a sensible enough approach.

  • BobSacamano

    Was there an Israeli pilot flying that F117? I’ve felt that a couple of dozen of those low-observables should be in Israels hands to facilitate the destruction of Iran’s nuke facilities, why-the-heck not? …

  • Belesari

    The problem is we dont have a AI and it would more than likely be to big for the airplane. Not that we would trust it.

    • Jetwatcher

      the F-117 flew most of it’s mission on autopilot. the pilot would install a programmed harddrive into the jet with the missio plan, and after takeoff, the autopilot would preform most of the flight. there is a show that repeats on the Military channel about the F-117s and Desert Storm that’s pretty good. adding UAV-type interface/controlls wouldn’t take much, and reskinning the jets would be easy.

      • Maxtrue

        So, we might be able to refashion this into advanced stealthy drones.

        Ceiling height 80,000 ft?

        Payload load after robotizing -5000lbs?

        Some form of thermobaric self-destruct destroys all?

        Makes for an interesting asset given this news: http://www.aviationweek.com/aw/generic/story_gene…

    • Maxtrue

      Sorry, I meant a computer system a bit more advanced than what we presently fit into our more advanced drones…..

      We are on the verge of giving our drones autonomous licenses to kill….

  • Ptsfp

    Have you guys seen the F-117 sitting at an air-to-air missle research facility in China?


  • Maxtrue

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lockheed_Martin_RQ-1… probably 20,000lbs. or so of thrust and about 10,000 lbs empty weight. DOD is thinking of loading a microwave DEW in it to take out enemy electronics. Modular DEW payloads? Increase Sentinel size. Increase ceiling height, refuel autonomously and carry two 2000lb hypersonics could be quite a risk to underground facilities.

    Not sure F-117 would be a better drone….

    Maybe the Chinese were customizing their missile sensors to their mock up of an F-117. Why, if they’re retired?

  • enlightened

    thats not an F-117… google the “beast of kandahar”

    • crackedlenses


  • 130Eng

    Yes, that is a 117. Does the tail section even remotely (get the pun?) look like one for the RQ-170? Oh wait, the 170 doesn’t have a tail, that’s right!

  • dirk

    mountains make it look like holloman in new mexico where the 117 USED to be, could be old

  • Dave

    That is definitely a 117. In fact you can tell the difference between the original Have Blue project aircraft and the final F-117 largely by the tail. The Have Blue tail fins were tilted INWARD, but this was ultimately too unstable for flight so they tilted them out for the final production F-117. This sacrificed radar cross-section, so they went from the cross-section of a tiny ball bearing to a slightly-larger-than-tiny ball bearing.