The F-117 was designated a fighter aircraft (hence the "F") but it was not capable of engaging other airplanes or dogfighting. Its job was to sneak in through a country's radar and drop bombs or launch missles at targets on the ground. The F-117 made its first flight in the Nevada desert on June 18, 1981. The following year the first planes were delivered and the plane was declared operational in October 1983. It was still a "black program" however and the air force vehemently denied its very existence for a further 5 years, until November of 1988.
In all 49 F-117s were built and saw service in Panama in 1989, the first Gulf War in 1991 (where it flew with impunity over an otherwise heavily defended Baghdad), Serbia in 1999 (where the first and only of its kind was shot down with the wreckage sold to the Chinese), the Afghan war and the Iraq war.
In 2005 the decision was made to incrementally retire the F-117 in favor of the new, sleeker F-22 and on April 22, 2008 the last of the Stealth Fighters was decomissioned. But though its gone now it will not soon to be forgotten for something about the war plane captured the public imagination and, for better or worse, became part of the new, hi-tech image the country was formulating for itself in the 80s.
|The F-117 Stealth Fighter on the ground and in the air. Who knew Hershey's Kisses could fly?|