Modern Airplanes/Jets


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F-117A Nighthawk

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United States of America

Model Box

ate Deployed: January 16, 1991
F-114A Nighthawk
Manufacturer: Lockheed Martin 
Model from Academy of Korea Kit # 2118 Built on 10-19-2004        1/48 scale

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   The Lockheed 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.

   There is some conjecture about its abilities. It is said that it cannot turn at greater than 5g, though the information is classified. It lacks the radar to guide longer-range missiles, and does not carry shorter-range ones for self-defense. USAF officials once considered putting AIM-9 Sidewinder air-to-air missiles on the F-117 — pilots were even trained to fire them — but there is no evidence that AIM-9s have ever been loaded aboard. Its stealth capabilities makes it hard to locate by other fighters and target with radar tracking air-air missiles.

 

 

 

          

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