25th Anniversary – F-117 Stealth Fighter

F-117: A long, storied history that is about to end

Senior Airman Justin Byars marshals in an F-117 Nighthawk for an end of runway inspection before takeoff from the Holloman Air Force Base N.M. The stealth fighter was one 25 Nighthawks that flew in a formation celebrating the plane’s 25th Anniversary. Airman Byars is a crew chief with the 49th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Brian Ferguson)

The dickering about how many F-117s to keep in service and for how long will go on for quite some time, despite the tone of the story.

Seems to me that the Israelis might a good candidate for a squadron of these things as our F-22s come online. On the other hand, I believe that the F-35 Lightning’s radar cross section is supposedly only half that of the F-117, so maybe some of those would make a lot more sense.

Also, has anyone heard anything about the gray-paint F-117 “Dayhawks” in action? The plane was apparently in use over two years ago, but I haven’t heard a peep since then.


  1. I suspect the Israelis would prefer the F-117 if it has longer range than the F-35 (and I suspect it does). Also keep in mind that the angle, frequency and distance of the radar affect apparent RCS. I wouldn’t be surprised if the F-35 had a smaller radar cross-section than the F-117 from head on (due to it being smaller), but the F-117 did better from the sides and/or rear. The F-35 is much more flexible (it can dogfight, carry AA weapons and a much larger range of AG weapons) but Israel really needs something with long legs I think. And, I suspect 2 * 2000lb LGBs as a loadout on a stealth bomber would make them happy enough.

  2. I read the whole article but no where did the article say when the F-117 will be taken off line. Seems like an important detail when you write an story like that. Wild Bill

  3. Note that the F-35 with its coatings only has half the signature of the F-117 which is almost completely dependant on shape for stealth. That’s not a very big difference in a realm where returns are measured in decibels. 50% is about the same loss as you get in light coming through a clean window vs. looking at an object with no glass window in the way. Not only do the coatings not make much difference, they cost a lot and are fragile. Damage to a fragile coating can cause a significant increase in the signal return. That’s why we shouldn’t put all of our eggs in that basket. Speed is still extremely important to combat aircraft, especially in the penetration role.