Combat Legend:- F-117 Nighthawk
|PUBLISHED (THIS EDITION):||February 2003|
|INSIDE:||16 pages colour photos & profiles, plus design plans and b/w photos through text|
* Key frontline aircraft of the USAF since 1983 * Deployed in the Gulf War and Balkan conflicts * Operational from 1983 but kept secret until 1988
In 1978 the US government authorised Lockheed to develop an operational stealth aircraft. Its purpose was covert precision attack on high-value targets in any theatre of war. The F-117 was the result. It first flew in 1981 and became operational in 1983, although the Pentagon would not admit its existence until late 1988. The aircraft is deliberately subsonic, principally because it is difficult to avoid unwanted attention if a sonic boom is dragged along the flight path. It has a healthy combat radius of nearly 700 miles and can carry a variety of sophisticated precision weapons in its internal weapons bay.
The F-117 has proved itself to be an important weapon wherever the USA has become involved in actions against dictators and terrorist regimes. Forty-two aircraft flew from Saudi Arabia to attack targets in Iraq and occupied Kuwait. In 1999 the first loss of an F-117 occurred in Operation Allied Force. There is little doubt that whenever the US Air Force is called into action, the Nighthawk is summoned to the frontline and beyond.