Fading to Black

The Air Force is hosting a ceremony today at Wright-Patterson AFB, Ohio, to honor the F117A Nighthawk, the world’s first stealth attack aircraft that USAF is phasing out of service after 27 years of operations. The event will include an F-117A on display from the 49th Fighter Wing at Holloman AFB, N.M. the Air Force’s single operational Nighthawk unit and will conclude with a flyover. Next month, Holloman will host its own retirement event as the last F-117s leave the base and go into recallable storage at Tonopah, Nev., near Nellis AFB. “The F-117 program created a revolution in military warfare by incorporating low-observable technology into an operational aircraft,” said Diana Filliman, director of the 650th Aeronautical Systems Squadron that oversees the Nighthawk program. Lockheed Martin built 59 production-version F-117s for the Air Force. Seven were lost, including one in combat during Operation Allied Force in 1999. So far, USAF has phased out 37 of the remaining F-117s. First flight occurred in June 1981, only 31 months after the green light for full-scale development. Existence of the black aircraft was first publicly acknowledged in November 1988, slightly more than one year before its first use in combat December 1989, during Operational Just Cause in Panama. (Wright-Patterson report by Derek Kaufman)