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F-117A Operations

The group received its first production stealth aircraft on September 2, 1982. The 4450th moved from Groom Lake to the Tonopah Test Range in 1983, equipped with a partial squadron of stealth fighters(14) plus a few A-7Ds. The group achieved initial operational capability on October 28, 1983, with a total of 14 production aircraft on hand. In order to avoid having the 4450th's aircraft seen by curious observers, all flying had to take place at night. During the day, the aircraft were always kept behind closed doors inside special hangars.

On May 9, 1992, four F-117 stealth fighters from Tonopah Test Range, Nev., arrived at Holloman. This move of the F-117s, initially proposed in January 1990, was completed July 7th, with the last of the personnel and Nighthawks belonging to the 415th, 416th and 417th fighter squadrons arriving at Holloman.

On July 30, 1993, the 49th from Holloman AFB initiated several squadron redesignations that would ensure the heritage and legacy of the wing was continued. At that time the 415th and 416th Fighter Squadrons, flying the F-117, became the 9th and 8th Fighter Squadrons, respectively. The 9th FS, flying the F-4 returned to its prior designation as the 20 FS. During December 1993, the 417 FS was redesignated the 7th FS. The change followed transfer of the wing's Introduction to Fighter Fundamentals training to Air Education and Training Command. With the redesignation of the 417th FS, the 49th retained the wing's original 3 squadrons, the 7th, 8th, and 9th.

However this move did not come off easy. The following was published in the May, 16, 1994 issue of "Air Force Times":

"However this move did not come off easy. The following was published in the May, 16, 1994 issue of "Air Force Times":After neglecting its F-117A fleet and watching the plane's readiness rates plunge, the Air Force is spending more money on parts and improvements and is recruiting experienced maintenance personnel
Service officials say parts shortages and a lack of qualified F-117 maintainers forced the number of war-ready F-117s to fall from 37 out of a total of 45 two years ago to 28 now
The troubles began in June 1992 when most of the Air Force's fleet of F-117s moved from the Tonopah Test Range Airfield north of Las Vegas to the 49th Fighter Wing at Holloman Air Force Base near Alamogordo, N.M
With the move, the planes lost about 70 percent of their most experienced maintenance and support people. Many others were deployed to the Middle East with the F-117s assigned to Operation Southern Watch, which monitors the no-fly zone in southern Iraq. The deployment left Holloman with even fewer experienced maintenance personnel
"Many technicians elected to retire or leave the military during the first round of the military drawdown rather than uproot their families and move to Holloman," said Lt. Col. William Flannigan, who oversees the condition of the F-117 fleet for the Air Combat Command.
About 140 replacement maintenance people now are in training, he said. To get more experienced maintainers for the F-117 fleet, the Air Combat Command is reassigning people in five critical fields as well as reassigning former F-117 maintenance people to Holloman.
The move to Holloman had other consequences. The base had no hangars to protect the planes' unique radar-absorbing materials from sun damage, further taxing the small pool of experienced F-117 maintenance workers. A funding shortfall led to a shortage of spare parts and forced F-117 maintainers to delay certain avionics repairs.
As a result, the fleet's readiness fell dramatically. In May 1992, just before the move to Holloman, an average of 83 percent of the fleet was ready for wartime operations. At the end of March 1994, that figure was down to 62 percent, Flannigan said."
But the Air Force is trying to bring the planes back to their war-ready standards, Flannigan said in a May 2 interview. Last year, the Air Force allocated an extra $12 million to cover the maintenance-funding shortfalls.
And the F-117 maintenance budget for this year, about $174 million, covers "just about 100 percent" of the costs for spares and other maintenance costs, Flannigan said. Since January, the avionics repairs are being made and spare parts are being restocked and put on the planes, he said.
"For the most part, we're in pretty good shape," Flannigan said of the parts problem. "We won't have everything , but we're certainly much better off than we were."
The command is training about 143 more people to maintain the planes for the 49th Fighter Wing.
Each F-117 flies an average of 11.3 sorties per month in fiscal 1994, about one sortie per month less than last year and a half-sortie less than in fiscal 1992. "


[.()]On April 10, 1995 the Air Force Times published that the Navy's aviation depot in Jacksonville, Fla., would handle repairs on the engines for the F-117 stealth fighter. The depot received its first engine -- a General Electric-made F404-F1D2 -- on March 6. Work on the engines previously was done by GE at its plant in Ontario, Calif. Col. Robert Drewitt, a manager at the Sacramento Air Logistics Center at McClellan Air Force Base, Calif., said having the Navy work on the engines would save the Air Force $1.65 million per year.

On February 11, 1998 the US Air Force announced that the 7th FS ("Screamin Demons"-Training) would be deactivated. Six of it's nine aircraft would be transferred to the 9th FS ("Flying Knights") and the 8th FS ("Black Sheep"). The remaining three aircraft would be put in "attrition reserve".
According to Holloman AFB Public Affairs, "'Attrition Reserve,' means the aircraft will remain at Holloman for use by the other F-117 units, but will have no manpower assigned to support them." Basically this means that the aircraft are still flyable, mission capable, etc. But there is no funding for the "aircraft". Newsgroup poster "Aggie 37" summed it up this way: "So you may have 17 jets on the ramp, and periodically fly all 17, but your funding, including crews ratio, maintenance manning, flying hours, etc. is based on your PAA - Primary Aircraft Authorized. So even though you are actually flying all 17 pieces of hardware on the ramp, your dollars will only equate to your PAA. If your PAA is 12, then you probably have 5 jets in attrition reserve."

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