Will Be Parked In Nevada
It's tough to believe that some of the most advanced aircraft in
the US Air Force inventory are being put to pasture... but such is
the case with the storied F-117A Nighthawk stealth fighter. This
week, the first six F-117s based at New Mexico's Holloman Air Force
Base took off for probably the last time, bound for retirement in
As Aero-News reported, the
Bush administration announced last year the 52 Nighthawks based at
Holloman would be retired. The Alamogordo Daily News reports the
Pentagon plans to replace them with 36 F-22 Raptors, starting in
Ironically, the F-117As are returning to the place they were
initially deployed. The Tonopah Test Range in Nevada, where the
Nighthawks are destined to be parked, saw the first operational
squadron delivered there in 1982.
That was six years before the Pentagon publicly confirmed the
plane's existence; before then, sightings of the wedge-shaped
F-117s provoked many UFO sightings in the most desolate parts of
the Silver State.
"This has come full circle for this incredible airplane," said
Brig. Gen. David Goldfein, commander of Holloman's 49th Fighter
Wing, in a March 12 ceremony. He added the Nighthawk's story is
"one of vision, guts, passion, heroism, defiance, incredible
risk-taking, a story both uniquely American and, I believe,
uniquely Air Force."
In the end, the F-117A fell victim to the very technology it
helped pioneer -- as the Raptor incorporates many of the
Nighthawk's advanced radar-evading tricks, while also delivering
true air-to-air combat capability. Despite it's "fighter" moniker,
the F-117A was in reality a ground-support aircraft.
"Holloman was chosen for the F-22," Goldfein said. "It makes
sense to replace stealth with stealth."
The 49th Fighter Wing will continue to operate the F-117A for
the next year-and-a-half. The wing has a squadron of the planes
deployed in Korea.