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Posted: 2/17/2006 12:43:19 PM EDT
Feb. 16, 2006
Copyright © Las Vegas Review-Journal

Retirement moved up to '08

By KEITH ROGERS
REVIEW-JOURNAL

The black jets that revolutionized air warfare with their radar-evading
technology and ability to drop precision-guided bombs at night are to be
discarded in 2008, 20 years after the Air Force acknowledged the stealth
fighters' existence, officials said.

Capt. Michelle Lai, an Air Force spokeswoman at the Pentagon, said Wednesday
that "right now the overall plan is being worked out," but most if not all
of the nation's 52 F-117A Nighthawks are expected to go to "the boneyard":
Davis-Monthan Air Force Base near Tucson, Ariz., where rows upon rows of
scrapped planes cover acres of desert.

The Nighthawks are priced at $45 million apiece, not counting costs for
research and development, according to an Air Force fact sheet.
Some of the stealth jets could be sold to U.S. allies, Lai said. "But I
wouldn't say that's the plan," she added.

"I think they'll probably put at least one in a museum," she said. "But are
the first ones going to the museums or the yard? All those details are still
being worked out."

Fifty of the Nighthawks are based in the 49th Fighter Wing at Holloman Air
Force Base in Alamogordo, N.M. The other two are assigned to test squadrons,
including one in a tenant unit at Nellis Air Force Base. That plane, tail
No. 835, belongs to the 53rd Wing at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla.

The reason for pushing up the retirement date from 2011 to 2008 as called
for in the Bush administration's proposed budget is because the F-117A has
gotten too expensive and difficult to maintain, officials said.

Better replacements are available: the F-22A Raptor stealth attack jet and
the unmanned Global Hawk high-altitude reconnaissance plane, Air Force Chief
of Staff Gen. T. Michael Moseley told the Review-Journal on Friday during a
visit to Nellis.

Tom Fuller, spokesman for the Nighthawks wing at Holloman, said that the
F-117 is old.

"This is a good time for the Air Force to start investing in the future ...
and not spending taxpayers' dollars because its time may have passed," he
said.

"The aircraft was made with off-the-shelf parts: the landing gear from an
F-15, the engines are from F-18s, and the controls F-16 and on and on. Some
of those parts might not even be manufactured now because some of those
aircraft have been retired from the fleet," Fuller said.

Moseley said, "The F-22 can carry eight bombs, eight small-diameter bombs or
pair of big bombs plus the missiles. The 117 can still only carry two
bombs." And, he added, "it has a very labor-intensive maintenance package on
it."

"It is still a good airplane right now. But when you look 10 years from now
or 15 years from now when you have F-22s and Joint Strike Fighters that have
the same, low-observable characteristics and can carry more than two
internal weapons, it's time to start looking at a transition," Moseley said.

His trip coincided with a Red Flag air combat training exercise at Nellis
that runs through Saturday. Eight F-117A Nighthawks from the 9th Fighter
Squadron at Holloman are participating in the exercise.

The return of the Nighthawks to Nevada marked a return to their roots. Much
of the testing and development of the nation's first stealth aircraft took
place at a classified installation, known as Area 51 along the dry Groom
Lake bed three decades ago, sources who worked there have said. The first
war-fighting F-117s were based at the Tonopah Test Range.

News that the F-117A was destined for retirement in the next two years
surprised and disappointed Clark County Public Works spokesman Bobby
Shelton.

As an Air Force spokesman in the late 1980s and early 1990s, Shelton played
a role in lifting the veil of secrecy about the program when the Nighthawks
were based at the Tonopah range.

"I'm a little set back," Shelton said Wednesday. "I had no idea they were
looking at retirement. I thought it would stay around for many, many years
kind of like the old B-52s did."

The B-52's first flight was in April 1952, and an upgraded version of it is
expected to continue to be used by the Air Force beyond the year 2030,
according to the Air Force's Web site.

The Lockheed F-117A was developed under a tightly guarded program in the
1970s and early 1980s. It was designed to bomb targets without detection by
enemy radar systems, which is why the planes were tested at Groom Lake, 90
miles north of Las Vegas and 35 miles west of Alamo, sources close to the
project have said.

The F-117 fighter-attack jet made its first flight on June 18, 1981. After
the stealth program was declassified in November 1988, the first warplanes
were deployed in combat over Panama in December 1989. It blazed the trail
for today's more advanced stealth aircraft, the B-2 Spirit bomber and the
F-22A Raptor.

Shelton was the F-117s' public information officer between 1989 and 1992,
assigned first to the 4450th Tactical Group and later the 37th Tactical
Fighter Wing.

"I was one of those people basically hired to bring it out. ... It was in
the 'black' world in the late-1979 time frame to when the Air Force first
acknowledged it in November 1988," he said.
He remembered when the first F-117A was put out for public display at
Nellis.

"Prior to April 21, 1990, nobody could get close to those airplanes. We had
it cordoned off with a 50-foot cord and had a mini-open house at Nellis. We
had about 350 media types from around the world in addition to tens of
thousands of people from the Las Vegas area," Shelton said. "For some, it
was probably the ugliest airplane that anybody had ever seen."
In the Persian Gulf War in 1991, 36 F-117As bolstered the allied effort
against Iraq by bombing targets in Baghdad, Iraq.

The original stealth fighter wing at Tonopah on the Nellis range was
relocated to Holloman after the Persian Gulf War. The first plane arrived at
Holloman in May 1992.

Fifty-nine production models were made with the last rolling off the line at
Lockheed's Palmdale, Calif., plant on July 12, 1990. Seven were destroyed in
crashes, including one that was lost in combat over Yugoslavia on March 27,
1999, in the Kosovo war effort.

Fuller, spokesman for the Nighthawks wing at Holloman, said a pair of
F-117As led the charge at the onset of Operation Iraqi Freedom in March
2003.

"The president authorized the mission. Two flew in unescorted over Baghdad
and dropped two bombs per aircraft," he said, describing the attack on Dora
Farms, where intelligence sources thought Iraq leader Saddam Hussein was
hiding.
Link Posted: 2/17/2006 12:50:07 PM EDT
Same with the F-14.
Link Posted: 2/17/2006 12:52:38 PM EDT
Its a shame. I was stationed in Saudi with that aircraft. I'm sad to see it go.
Link Posted: 2/17/2006 12:53:41 PM EDT

Better replacements are available: the F-22A Raptor stealth attack jet and
the unmanned Global Hawk high-altitude reconnaissance plane, Air Force Chief
of Staff Gen. T. Michael Moseley told the Review-Journal on Friday during a
visit to Nellis



Bah! They should use the Superhornet.

Link Posted: 2/17/2006 12:59:35 PM EDT
Well that was quick.
Link Posted: 2/17/2006 1:02:40 PM EDT
You have to wonder if the bad guys have developed countermeasures against it already. Besides the stealth features its really nothing special. Once that stealth ability is gone its a sitting duck. Not to mention the miliary rarely retires something unless there is something better in the wings.
Link Posted: 2/17/2006 1:04:14 PM EDT
Link Posted: 2/17/2006 1:04:21 PM EDT

Originally Posted By ARDOC:
You have to wonder if the bad guys have developed countermeasures against it already. Besides the stealth features its really nothing special. Once that stealth ability is gone its a sitting duck. Not to mention the miliary rarely retires something unless there is something better in the wings.


OOOOOhhh,yeah,your right. Hmmmmm.........
Link Posted: 2/17/2006 1:13:23 PM EDT
Operational from the 70's to 2006, saw action in two engagements, and now on the way out.
Wonder what those things will end up costing per combat hour flown?

CO
Link Posted: 2/17/2006 1:14:33 PM EDT


too bad...its like a classic now
Link Posted: 2/17/2006 1:15:49 PM EDT

Originally Posted By Chaingun:
Well that was quick.




+1
Link Posted: 2/17/2006 1:17:54 PM EDT
27 years of service ain't bad. It was revolutionary.
Link Posted: 2/17/2006 1:18:04 PM EDT
Consider how revolutionary this plane was when it went public in the 80's.
The first time we all saw it many jaws dropped. An all black plane, sharp angles like never before seen....and invisible to radar.....just wow.

Fast forward.....in a day where the average citizen has a GPS/camera/mp3 player/walkie talkie/cell phone on their belt.....voice activated navigation in their vehicles...wireless internet...where night vision is a common aftermarket accessory for a rifle....


Just try to imagine what our next verisions of 'secret' aircraft are going to be capable of.
Maybe I am way too optimistic, but I tend to think that if this administration did anything in its 8 years, funding for military research will be on the list.

The future of warfare will be mind blowing...and the US will own supremecy like always.
I just wish we would stop selling off old technology to other nations. I would rather see them chop up a 45 million dollar aircraft than give it to someone who could someday use it against us. No one is an ally forever.
Link Posted: 2/17/2006 1:20:07 PM EDT

Originally Posted By ARDOC:
You have to wonder if the bad guys have developed countermeasures against it already. Besides the stealth features its really nothing special. Once that stealth ability is gone its a sitting duck. Not to mention the miliary rarely retires something unless there is something better in the wings.


What'd they say it was, a SA-6?
Link Posted: 2/17/2006 1:31:49 PM EDT

Originally Posted By CasualObserver:
Operational from the 70's to 2006, saw action in two engagements, and now on the way out.
Wonder what those things will end up costing per combat hour flown?

CO



What ever that cost it was worth ever penny.
Link Posted: 2/17/2006 1:36:17 PM EDT

Originally Posted By CasualObserver:
Operational from the 70's to 2006, saw action in two engagements, and now on the way out.
Wonder what those things will end up costing per combat hour flown?

CO


I can think of more than two engagements:
Panama
Iraq part I
Bosnia
Kosovo
Afghanistan
Iraq part II
Link Posted: 2/17/2006 1:47:18 PM EDT
Link Posted: 2/17/2006 2:01:03 PM EDT
[Last Edit: 2/17/2006 2:01:15 PM EDT by Stryfe]
An Izzy F117?
Link Posted: 2/17/2006 2:02:35 PM EDT
Link Posted: 2/17/2006 2:04:41 PM EDT
You think the Chinese got ahold of this badboy back in Bosnia?
Link Posted: 2/17/2006 2:30:49 PM EDT

Originally Posted By KeMiCaLs:
You think the Chinese got ahold of this badboy back in Bosnia?



Yup. They let the Chinese and Russians keep the wreckage. It never would have been shot down if the Air Farce had had the jammer support they needed. Unfortunatly, someone (quess who) had all the EF-111's scrapped, and the Navy didn't have enough Prowlers to pick up the slack. I think it's unforgivable that he didn't have the wreckage bombed a few more times. Even if it was old technology, it was still technology they didnt yet have, but now something they can look at, duplicate, and improve upon.


-K
Link Posted: 2/17/2006 2:34:12 PM EDT
Link Posted: 2/17/2006 2:36:03 PM EDT
It'll be interesting to see what replaces it!
Link Posted: 2/17/2006 2:36:29 PM EDT
Old and busted:




The new hotness:

Link Posted: 2/17/2006 2:43:18 PM EDT
Welcome to 2 weeks ago. Though a reliable source out of southern.......New Mexico tells me the F-22s will be moving in when the F117s move out of Holloman.
Link Posted: 2/17/2006 2:45:55 PM EDT

Originally Posted By Special-K:

Originally Posted By KeMiCaLs:
You think the Chinese got ahold of this badboy back in Bosnia?



Yup. They let the Chinese and Russians keep the wreckage. It never would have been shot down if the Air Farce had had the jammer support they needed. Unfortunatly, someone (quess who) had all the EF-111's scrapped, and the Navy didn't have enough Prowlers to pick up the slack. I think it's unforgivable that he didn't have the wreckage bombed a few more times. Even if it was old technology, it was still technology they didnt yet have, but now something they can look at, duplicate, and improve upon.


-K




I cant recall correctly but didnt the CIA try to destroy the wreckage?
Link Posted: 2/17/2006 2:56:46 PM EDT
what? did the USAF hire Vitto?
Link Posted: 2/17/2006 2:58:31 PM EDT
Link Posted: 2/17/2006 2:59:26 PM EDT

Originally Posted By CasualObserver:
Operational from the 70's to 2006, saw action in two engagements, and now on the way out.
Wonder what those things will end up costing per combat hour flown?

CO



Way more than two... Panama, Yugo, Desert Storm, OIF...
Link Posted: 2/17/2006 3:02:04 PM EDT

Originally Posted By Stryfe:
An Izzy F117?



One of the original Have Blue airframes, IIRC.
Link Posted: 2/17/2006 3:03:47 PM EDT

Originally Posted By Tomislav:


The new hotness: Deader than dead:

www.airforce-technology.com/projects/x-45-ucav/images/X45UCAV_4.jpg



That goes for the X-45C, also.
Link Posted: 2/17/2006 3:05:47 PM EDT

Originally Posted By macro:

....and invisible to radar.....just wow.




No, just harder to detect and track than other airplanes. Not invisible.
Link Posted: 2/17/2006 3:10:53 PM EDT


I remember trying to detect it useing equipment in the early 80's at Groom Lake. At night something would fly by and we recorded what we could see if anything, across all freq's.
Then one day they let us see it fly by and later up close. We were blown away and could belive our eyes, something out of a Star Wars movie. It was awsome to behold, still feel the excitment thinking about it.

Someone out their is probally looking at something, new experianceing the same thing!

Link Posted: 2/17/2006 3:14:56 PM EDT

Originally Posted By AeroE:

Originally Posted By Tomislav:


The new hotness: Deader than dead:

www.airforce-technology.com/projects/x-45-ucav/images/X45UCAV_4.jpg



That goes for the X-45C, also.


Really?


News link please. Thanks.
Link Posted: 2/17/2006 3:19:11 PM EDT

Originally Posted By CasualObserver:
Operational from the 70's to 2006, saw action in two engagements, and now on the way out.
Wonder what those things will end up costing per combat hour flown?
O



The 70's?
Link Posted: 2/17/2006 3:31:07 PM EDT

Originally Posted By 44Punk:
Welcome to 2 weeks ago. Though a reliable source out of southern.......New Mexico tells me the F-22s will be moving in when the F117s move out of Holloman.



Pete Domenici and the rest of NM's reps have been pushing for the F-22 to come to Holloman.
I think they will need to build a few more F-22's though.
Link Posted: 2/17/2006 3:35:06 PM EDT

Originally Posted By Chaingun:
Well that was quick.

+1
Link Posted: 2/17/2006 3:38:41 PM EDT
They've had one on a stick at Nellis for years, it was old then
Link Posted: 2/17/2006 3:41:21 PM EDT

Originally Posted By Special-K:

Originally Posted By KeMiCaLs:
You think the Chinese got ahold of this badboy back in Bosnia?



Yup. They let the Chinese and Russians keep the wreckage. It never would have been shot down if the Air Farce had had the jammer support they needed. Unfortunatly, someone (quess who) had all the EF-111's scrapped, and the Navy didn't have enough Prowlers to pick up the slack. I think it's unforgivable that he didn't have the wreckage bombed a few more times. Even if it was old technology, it was still technology they didnt yet have, but now something they can look at, duplicate, and improve upon.


-K



Goes way beyond jamming support.

Start with the USAF decision to disregard Lockheed's recommendation to paint the aircraft a pastel blue that would blend with a much wider range of sky conditions - not manly enough for USAF. Aircraft was very conspicuous beneath a cloud deck.

Add in overconfidence in the plane's capabilities/underestimation of the enemy. Repeated flights on the same route.

The aircraft was initially tracked optically by the missile operators before they engaged it. The black aircraft was flying beneath an overcast and was very easy to pick out, especially on a route that the bad guys had scouted.

Finally, you can throw in lack of jamming support, but the USAF justified the price tags of the F-117 and the B-2 partially on the fact that they would not need support beyond tankers. That they were a bargain because there would be a need for far fewer support aircraft, the pilots to fly the support birds, and the crews to maintain them.

EW aircraft, were and continue to be a very high-demand/low density asset. The Navy had the jamming to cover what the Clinton administration told them to expect in its strategic planning guidance, but operatiosn far outstripped that pace.
Link Posted: 2/17/2006 3:42:14 PM EDT

Originally Posted By KeMiCaLs:

Originally Posted By Special-K:

Originally Posted By KeMiCaLs:
You think the Chinese got ahold of this badboy back in Bosnia?



Yup. They let the Chinese and Russians keep the wreckage. It never would have been shot down if the Air Farce had had the jammer support they needed. Unfortunatly, someone (quess who) had all the EF-111's scrapped, and the Navy didn't have enough Prowlers to pick up the slack. I think it's unforgivable that he didn't have the wreckage bombed a few more times. Even if it was old technology, it was still technology they didnt yet have, but now something they can look at, duplicate, and improve upon.


-K




I cant recall correctly but didnt the CIA try to destroy the wreckage?



The Navy could have had a Tomahawk on the wreckage within hours if folks at the strategic level had blessed the strike.
Link Posted: 2/17/2006 3:43:58 PM EDT
Seems reasonable .

It did it's job as a technology test bed and proof of concept .
Link Posted: 2/17/2006 3:49:15 PM EDT
Group buy? Has anyone here been to the boneyard base? Looks like a sad but cool place to visit.
Link Posted: 2/17/2006 4:04:03 PM EDT
[Last Edit: 2/17/2006 4:04:57 PM EDT by stickfigure]
See ya later bye, I won't miss it...

The F-22A isn't going to go to Holloman until most of the F-15 bases have either replaced their fleets with it or the JSF. But putting it in the bone yard aling with the U-2 and most of the B-52' is a good move. Somethings just need to go away...

Fast forward to 2008 more F-22A's, JSF's coming online, Global Hawks deploying, B-1B's not going to the Boneyard and no fucking CV-22 Osprey. We need modern HH-47's instead!
Link Posted: 2/17/2006 4:31:47 PM EDT
How many more F-22s will this buy?
Link Posted: 2/17/2006 6:24:54 PM EDT

Originally Posted By chrome1:
Seems reasonable .

It did it's job as a technology test bed and proof of concept .



I doubt the other guys got much out of the wreckage unless there was some whiz bang black boxes that weren't self destructed. The concepts that made it a low observable radar reflector have been known for years. Just nobody put it all together.
Link Posted: 2/17/2006 7:01:27 PM EDT
The black jets that revolutionized air warfare with their radar-evading
technology and ability to drop precision-guided bombs at night are to be
discarded in 2008


do you think they'll auction them off? I wouldn't mind havin 1.
Link Posted: 2/17/2006 7:09:17 PM EDT
God, I'm getting old.

That jet was conceived, tested, produced, served and now retired since I've been an adult.

Link Posted: 2/17/2006 7:12:07 PM EDT

Originally Posted By AeroE:

Originally Posted By Tomislav:


The new hotness: Deader than dead:

www.airforce-technology.com/projects/x-45-ucav/images/X45UCAV_4.jpg



That goes for the X-45C, also.



Well, I meant UAVs in general, but when was the X45 program scrapped? And when will they let Boeing know?
Link Posted: 2/17/2006 7:19:21 PM EDT

Originally Posted By Tomislav:

Originally Posted By AeroE:

Originally Posted By Tomislav:


The new hotness: Deader than dead:

www.airforce-technology.com/projects/x-45-ucav/images/X45UCAV_4.jpg



That goes for the X-45C, also.



Well, I meant UAVs in general, but when was the X45 program scrapped? And when will they let Boeing know?


Here's all I could find:LINK
Link Posted: 2/17/2006 7:28:13 PM EDT

Originally Posted By sta1treeman:
Has anyone here been to the boneyard base? Looks like a sad but cool place to visit.



I live right outside of it. They give tours (or at least did a couple of years ago).
Link Posted: 2/17/2006 8:31:17 PM EDT
[Last Edit: 2/17/2006 8:38:19 PM EDT by AeroE]

Originally Posted By dport:

Originally Posted By Tomislav:

Originally Posted By AeroE:

Originally Posted By Tomislav:


The new hotness: Deader than dead:

www.airforce-technology.com/projects/x-45-ucav/images/X45UCAV_4.jpg



That goes for the X-45C, also.



Well, I meant UAVs in general, but when was the X45 program scrapped? And when will they let Boeing know?


Here's all I could find
:LINK



Probably a little over dramatic, but the QDR has a little line or two that indicates to us that a USAF UCAV is not going to happen for a while and that a naval version (!!) is preferred; precisely opposite what most folks thought. The UCAS was burdened with mission creep and has turned into a large airplane with nearly the same cost as a manned airplane - so, the government is going to start over as near as anyone can tell. There is a briefing scheduled in the next week or so where the US will come in to tell us what the QDR really means.

I don't have a copy of the QDR at home; I assume it's easy enough to obtain since it's unclassified.

About the link - there is all sorts of baloney at that web site (think sales brochure - there aren't any outright lies, but all the truth is not revealed, either); people are still assigned to the Boeing UCAS pogram in St. Louis, and they are standing around wondering if they are going to have a job. The government hasn't stopped work that is being conducted under the current contract, but they are pretty much waiting on marching orders right now. Hopefully they will flush a couple of managers out of the company that have been infecting that program for too long.
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