Because of the tight restrictions on F-117A flights during the 4450th TG "black"era, a surrogate aircraft was needed for training and practice and to provide a cover story for the 4450th TG's existance.
The aircraft chosen was the Ling-Temco-Vought (LTV) A-7 Corairs II. The SLUFF (Short Little Ugly Fat Fellow) was chosen "because it demanded about the correct amount of pilot workload expected in the F-117A, was single seat, and therefore would bring all pilots to a common flight training base line, remembering we had pilots who had never flown single seat aircraft outside of solo flight in flight school" according to the late Gen. James S. Allen, who as a colonel became the 4450th's second commander in May 1982. For example, some of the F-117A pilots had F-4 or F-111 backgrounds. Therefore, upon selection to the 4450th, pilots were sent to the Arizona Air National Guard's 162nd TFG for pilot convertion into the A-7D.
In addition to providing an excuse for the 4450th's existence and activities (the A-7's were nominally for "avionics testing"), they were also used to maintain pilot currency, particularly in the early stages when very few production F-117As were available. The pilots learned to fly chase on F-117A test and training flights, perform practice covert deployments, and practice any other purpose that could not be accomplished using F-117As. given the tight restrictions imposed on all F-117A operations.
Most of the aircraft themselves came from England AFB, Loisianna, were they were on their way to mothballs. There were approximatly 20 aircraft, including a couple of trainers. It is rumored that originally F-16s were desired, but the A-7s were cheaper, a more believable avionics testbed, and readily available. The 4450th TG was the last active USAF unit to fly the SLUFF.
A-7 flight operations began in June 1981 concurrent with the very first YF-117A flights. The A-7's wore a unique "LV" tailcode (for Las Vegas) and were based officially at Nellis AFB. They were maintained by the 4450th Maintenance Squadron, based at Nellis. Some A-7s operated from Tonopah from the begining, and care was taken to leave them outside the hangers, so that prowling satellites could see that Tonopah operated nothing more exciting than some clapped-out Corsairs.
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