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|ate Deployed: January 16, 1991|
|Manufacturer: Lockheed Martin|
|Model from Academy of Korea Kit # 2118 Built on 10-19-2004 1/48 scale|
F-117A Nighthawk, nicknamed “The Black Jet”, is the world's
first operational aircraft completely designed around stealth
technology. Flown only by the United
States Air Force, it is a direct descendant of the Have
Blue stealth prototype program.
The F-117A was widely publicized during the Gulf
War. The Air Force has been trying to retire the F-117, due
mainly to the deployment of the more effective F-22
Raptor. As of October 2006, the Air Force is planning to
retire the F-117 over the next several years, and no new pilots
will be trained to fly the plane.
The "F-" designation for this aircraft has not been
officially explained; however, it seemed to use the pre-1962
USAF fighter sequence like the F-111. Other modern aircraft also
have old pre-1962 numbers (such as the B-52, C-130, and a number
of lesser known aircraft), but the F-117 seems to be the only
later aircraft not to use the new system. Most modern U.S.
military aircraft use post-1962 designations which follow
(somewhat) predictable pattern whereby "F-" was
usually an air-to-air fighter, "B-" was usually a
bomber, and "A-" was usually a ground-attack aircraft.
Examples of the foregoing include the F-15
Eagle, the B-52
Stratofortress and the A-6
Intruder. Still, since the Stealth Fighter is actually
primarily a ground-attack plane, the fact that it retains an
"F-" designation is one of the reasons there are
several other theories. The USAF has always been more proud of
its fighters than its ground-attack aircraft, which are
sometimes denigrated as "mud movers." Officials may
have felt that they could more easily generate political and
military support for the radical new aircraft if it were called
a "fighter" rather than a bomber or attack plane. Or,
the "F-" designation may have been part of the attempt
to keep the Nighthawk secret (the program was classified until
the late 1980s). This misdirection could have also served to
keep the Nighthawk from violating treaties or angering other
countries. During development the term 'LT', for Logistics
Trainer, was often used.
Also, a recent televised documentary quoted a senior member of
the F-117A development team as saying that the top-notch fighter
pilots required to fly the new aircraft were more easily
attracted to an F- plane, as opposed to a B- or A- aircraft.
There has been something of a class distinction between fighter
and bomber crews, particularly in the days of the Strategic
Air Command (1945-1991), and flying one type often limited a
pilot's prospects for flying the other.
The USAF maintains that the F-117A can carry air-to-air
missiles, giving it air-to-air combat capability in addition
to its primary air-to-ground mission. While that may be
technically true, the aircraft is of unknown capability in
air-combat. It is likely a poor dogfighter,
but there is no expert opinion on its other abilities.
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