The F-117 was the world’s first operational stealth aircraft, designed to expand USAF’s ability to strike critical, heavily defended targets.
Its small radar signature, LO technologies, and advanced targeting system allowed the aircraft to penetrate dense threat environments and deliver precision weapons against heavily defended, high-value targets with pinpoint accuracy. Primary missions included precision attack, air interdiction, SEAD, and special operations.
The type was first publicly acknowledged in November 1988, and conducted its first operational deployment during Just Cause over Panama in 1989.
Highly classified F-117A development and manufacture began simultaneously in November 1978, using many parts transferred or modified from existing aircraft. The F-117As were first stationed at Tonopah Test Range in Nevada to conduct test flying before transferring operationally to Holloman in 1992.
A single aircraft was shot down in combat over Serbia on March 27, 1999, and the F-117 fleet was officially retired on April 22, 2008. The remaining airframes entered climate-controlled storage at Tonopah, with several being maintained in flyable condition for the Air Force Flight Test Center.
F-117s have recently reemerged, notably supporting several exercises in 2020 and operating more frequently and openly alongside Aggressor aircraft at Nellis and MCAS Miramar.
USAF has acknowledged a need for more advanced, threat-representative training and recently reactivated the 65th Aggressor Squadron at Nellis with early F-35As to enhance fifth-generation combat training.
Contractors: Lockheed Martin.
First Flight: June 18, 1981.
Delivered: 1982-summer 1990.
IOC: October 1983
Aircraft Location: Tonopah Test Range, Nev.
Active Variant: •F-117A. First-generation stealth attack aircraft.
Dimensions: Span 43.3 ft, length 65.9 ft, height 12.4 ft.
Weight: Max T-O 70,000 lb.
Power Plant: two General Electric F404-GE-F1D2 nonafterburning turbojets, each 9,040 lb thrust.
Performance: Speed 0.9 Mach, mission radius unrefueled (5,000-lb weapons load) 656 miles.
Ceiling: 35,000 ft.
Armament: Full internal carriage of a variety of tactical weapons, incl laser- and GPS-guided 2,000-lb munitions.
Accommodation: Pilot on ACES II zero/zero ejection seat.