The First Stealth Bomber Ever: Lockheed F-117 Nighthawk

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The Lockheed F-117 Nighthawk is a semi-retired American single-seat, twin-engine stealth attack aircraft that was developed by Lockheed’s secretive Skunk Works division and operated by the United States Air Force (USAF). It was the first operational aircraft to be designed around stealth technology

The Nighthawk’s maiden flight took place in 1981 at Groom Lake, Nevada, and the aircraft achieved initial operating capability status in 1983. The aircraft was shrouded in secrecy until it was revealed to the public in 1988. Of the 64 F-117s built, 59 were production versions, with the other five being prototypes.

The surfaces and edge profiles are optimised to reflect hostile radar into narrow beam signals, directed away from the enemy radar detector. All the doors and opening panels on the aircraft have saw-toothed forward and trailing edges to reflect radar.The aircraft is mainly constructed of aluminum, with titanium for areas of the engine and exhaust systems. The outer surface of the aircraft is coated with a radar-absorbent material (RAM). The radar cross-section of the F-117 has been estimated at between 10cm² and 100cm².

The aircraft can carry a range of tactical fighter ordnance in the weapons bay, including BLU-109B low-level laser-guided bomb, GBU-10 and GBU-27 laser-guided bomb units, Raytheon AGM-65 Maverick and Raytheon AGM-88 HARM air-to-surface missiles. F-117A is powered by two low-bypass F404-GE-F1D2 turbofan engines from General Electric. The rectangular air intakes on both sides of the fuselage are covered by gratings, which are coated with radar-absorbent material.

The F-117A aircraft is also known as the Frisbee and the Wobblin’ Goblin. The mission of the aircraft is to penetrate dense threat environments and attack high-value targets with high accuracy. Nighthawk has been in operational service in Panama, during Operation Desert Storm, in Kosovo, in Afghanistan and during Operation Iraqi Freedom. The Nighthawk is only used for night-time missions.

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