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Platinum Nighthawk News Stories
June 2001

Platinum Nighthawk celebrates stealth fighter's 20th
By 1st Lt. Cris L'Esperance
Edwards AFB Public Affairs,

[Four 49th FW F-117s fly over Edwards as part of a formation to celebrate the stealth fighter's 20th year of flight. (Photo by Judson Brohmer)] 6/29/01 -- EDWARDS AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. The Platinum Nighthawk celebration June 21 through Saturday commemorated the 20th anniversary of the first flight of the F-117A Nighthawk, the world's first operational aircraft designed to exploit low-observable stealth technology.

Commemoration events drew more than 1,000 participants and eight of the 54 F-117s in the Air Force inventory. Members of every unit currently associated with the aircraft were on hand, as well as a number of the men and women - military and civilian, government and contractor - who since the program's inception have worked to make it a reality.

The celebration was highlighted by several events in particular, according to event coordinators.

The hangar party's roundtable discussion, featuring the program's first test pilots, Lockheed's Hal Farley and Dave Ferguson, and Air Force officers Skip Anderson and Ken Dyson, provided a unique and one-of-a-kind chance for today's testers to learn about what the early days of the F-117 flight test program were really like, said Capt. Dan Marticello, hangar party event lead and acting operations officer for the 410th Flight Test Squadron, Air Force Plant 42, Palmdale.

Maj. Gen. David Deptula, director of the Air Force Quadrennial Defense Review at the Pentagon, further highlighted the celebration's commemoration efforts as he addressed the formal dinner crowd June 22 touching upon the revolutionary role of the F-117 during Desert Storm.

The aircraft flew roughly 1,300 sorties and scored direct hits on 1,600 high-value targets in Iraq. It was the only U.S. and coalition aircraft to strike targets in downtown Baghdad. Not one F-117 sustained combat damage during the six-week air war.

Only 457 pilots have ever flown the F-117 operationally, and only 26 Air Force and Lockheed Skunk Works test pilots have flown the aircraft developmentally.

For those less knowledgeable when it comes to the aircraft's specific capabilities, the celebration's 12-ship fly-by and aerial review, consisting of eight F-117s and four T-38s, was nonetheless awe-inspiring, said Capt. Skip Stolz, 410th FLTS director of engineering.

Every unit associated with the F-117 participated, including the 49th Fighter Wing, Holloman Air Force Base, N.M.; the operational test agency, Detachment 1 of the 53rd Test and Evaluation Group, also from Holloman; the F-117 System Program Office, Wright-Patterson AFB, Ohio; and the Air Force Flight Test Center's 410th FLTS, also known as the F-117 Combined Test Force.

"The Platinum Nighthawk celebration was a resounding success," said Lt. Col. Rod Cregier, 410th FLTS commander. "The participation and camaraderie of the F-117 community, from all aspects, was overwhelming."

Currently, the F-117 CTF is testing a variety of mid-life improvements that will maintain the aircraft's combat effectiveness through at least 2018, according to Cregier.

"The F-117's combination of stealth and precision delivery of munitions give it a capability that cannot be duplicated by any other aircraft in the Air Force inventory," he said.

Stealth fighter celebrates 20th birthday
by Robert Pepper
49th Fighter Wing Public Affairs

[Early in the stealth fighter's development, an F-117 sits on a test stand to undergo testing of its radar cross-section. On June 18, 1981, the F-117 took off for its maiden flight. (Courtesy photo)] 06/20/01 - HOLLOMAN AIR FORCE BASE, N.M. (AFPN) -- The F-117 Nighthawk stealth fighter made its maiden flight over the Nevada test ranges on June 18, 1981. Just 10 years later the F-117 proved its worth in Operation Desert Storm.

The aircraft flew about 1,300 sorties and scored direct hits on 1,600 high-value targets in Iraq. It was the only U.S. and coalition aircraft to strike targets in downtown Baghdad. Not one F-117 sustained combat damage during the six-week air war.

A year earlier in 1990, the F-117 got a home and the public got its first look at the once-secret program. In January of that year, Secretary of Defense Dick Cheney proposed the stealth fighters be relocated from Tonopah Test Range, Nev., to Holloman Air Force Base in New Mexico's Tularosa Basin. In April 1990, the F-117 was placed on public display for the first time at Nellis Air Force Base, Nev. About 150,000 people saw the aircraft that day, including families who had not been allowed to know what their parents and spouses were doing between the time they flew away Monday morning and returned home Friday afternoon.

Ground was broken here Aug. 13, 1991, just 10 months before the first of the Air Force's fleet of F-117s arrived. The first eight F-117s arrived to a rousing welcome by the base and surrounding communities May 9, 1992. By summer's end, all but eight of the aircraft had reached Holloman.

The last eight F-117s were still in Southwest Asia, poised to go back into action on a moment's notice. Six of those final eight participated in a punitive strike against Iraq in January 1992. Those eight found their way from Saudi Arabia to Holloman on July 13,1993.

With its transfer to Holloman, the F-117 unit was designated the 49th Fighter Wing. Its three squadrons were named the 7th, 8th and 9th fighter squadrons -- the units that made up the 49th Pursuit Group in the Pacific Theater during World War II.

Since coming here, the F-117 and the men and women of the "Fightin' 49ers" have deployed to the Southwest Asia twice. On their first trip, the F-117s flew nonstop from Holloman to Kuwait, a flight of about 18.5 hours. This is a record for single-seat fighters that still stands today.

The 49th FW also answered the call to duty in 1999 with 12-ship deployments to Aviano Air Base, Italy, and Spangdahlem AB, Germany, in support of NATO's Operation Allied Force. Gary Woltering, then a lieutenant colonel and the 8th Fighter Squadron's commander, led the first allied air strike against Yugoslavia on March 24, 1999.

Platinum Nighthawk Celebration June 21-23, 2001
First Flight Articles from June 2001 June 21-Hanger Party and Air Show
June 22-Formal Dinner June 21-5K RUNway Run/Walk


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