A Real Retirement for the Nighthawk

The Air Force may not have to maintain F-117s for possible recall much longer. The House Armed Services Committee’s version of the National Defense Authorization Act repeals a 2007 provision that required certain F-117s “be maintained in a condition that would allow recall of those aircraft to future service,” according to a committee report on the legislation (Caution, large-sized file). The F-117, the Air Force’s first stealth fighter, was retired in April 2008, and the 410th Flight Test Squadron, which had tested F-117As since 1980, was inactivated on Aug. 1, 2008. Most of the 50-plus airframe fleet currently resides in climate-controlled hangars at the Tonopah Test Range in Nevada, and a couple of the aircraft are flown periodically to practice getting them flightworthy again. It’s not clear if the Black Jets will move finally to the “boneyard” at Davis-Monthan AFB, Ariz., but if the decision is made to park the aircraft in the open, it won’t be possible to bring them back to service, because their stealth coatings would rapidly deteriorate in the heat and sun. (See also Fade to Black from the October 2006 issue of Air Force Magazine.)