Saturday, September 26, 2009

A Final Bow for Nighthawk



Dubai Air Show

A Final Bow for Nighthawk


The U.S. Air Force’s F-117A Nighthawk Stealth Fighter made its last air show appearance in Dubai this week. Two Nighthawks were on static display and one took part in the daily flight demonstrations. Pilots and maintenance crews made themselves available to answer questions.

“After 25 years in operation, it is the last air show appearance in the world,” said one maintenance crewman.

The F-117 is now facing the end of its mission life after 25 years of operation.

The Lockheed Martin F-117 has completed combat missions over Iraq, Kosovo and Panama. The Nighthawk took its first flight in 1981 and achieved operational status in 1983. However, it was not unveiled to the world until 1988. Produced by Lockheed’s famous Skunkworks, one aircraft was shot down in March 1999 during the Kosovo war by the Serbian 250th Missile Brigade using an SA-3 “Goa.”

Lockheed delivered 56 Nighthawks to the U.S. Air Force between 1982 and 1990.

“Half are already retired and the rest will be retired in April,” said Air Force Maj. Bret Carter, Air Combat Command, 49th Fighter Wing, 8th “Black Sheep” Fighter Squadron based at Holloman Air Force Base, N.M. There are now only 20 aircraft remaining at Holloman. The 8th Fighter Squadron supports Pacific operations.

Carter said the F-117 would be replaced by the new F-22 Raptor.

“We are recapitalizing the force. Out with old and in with new,” Carter said. “It is still completely capable of completing the same mission from the beginning. Very few of the stealth [F-117] pilots are going to the Raptor. Most are from the F-15C community who going to go to the Raptor [as pilots].”

Carter has flown over 400 hours in Nighthawks over the past two years.

“The F-117 is an amazingly incredible aircraft,” he said. “I’m going to miss it.”