“During this extremely covert deployment the four Nighthawks flew missions over Syria and Iraq with Small Diameter Bombs (SDBs).”
After at least one F-117 had been spotted flying in Nevada and Eastern California last week, Scramble Magazine is reporting that “Back in 2017, and not published by any other source so far, Scramble received very reliable information that at least four F-117s were deployed to the Middle East as an operational need emerged for the USAF to resurrect the stealth F-117 for special purposes. One of the deployed aircraft was involved in an in-flight emergency and landed far away from its temporary home base that was likely located in Saudi Arabia, the UAE or Qatar.
“During this extremely covert deployment the four Nighthawks flew missions over Syria and Iraq with Small Diameter Bombs (SDBs).
“For now, with the vanishing of most terrorists (IS) from Iraqi an Syrian territory, it seems that the USAF found, once again, an opportunity to show the Nighthawk in the open. Check the pilot in a very comfortable position in his cockpit! Knowing he and his fantastic aircraft were watched and photographed by very lucky people!
“Late February the Nighthawks were flying openly over Death Valley with a LEHI call sign. On 26 February, F-117A with serial number 84-0824 and vague ’49OG’ flagship markings (Former 49th Operation Group), was working the flats at Panamint, Death Valley, with two F-16 chase planes at a height of 200ft. Hopefully, more information will be available in the near future.”
The F-117A Nighthawk is the world’s first operational aircraft designed to exploit low-observable stealth technology. This precision-strike aircraft penetrates high-threat airspace and uses laser-guided weapons against critical targets.
The first F-117A was delivered in 1982, and the last delivery was in the summer of 1990. Air Combat Command’s only F-117A unit, the 4450th Tactical Group, (now the 49th Fighter Wing, Holloman Air Force Base, N.M.), achieved operational capability in October 1983.
During Operation Desert Storm in 1991, F-117A’s flew approximately 1,300 sorties and scored direct hits on 1,600 high-value targets in Iraq. It was the only U.S. or coalition aircraft to strike targets in downtown Baghdad. Since moving to Holloman AFB in 1992, the F-117A and the men and women of the 49th Fighter Wing have deployed to Southwest Asia more than once. On their first trip, the F-117s flew non-stop from Holloman to Kuwait, a flight of approximately 18.5 hours — a record for single-seat fighters that stands today.
In 1999, 24 F-117A’s deployed to Aviano Air Base, Italy, and Spangdahlem AB, Germany, to support NATO’s Operation Allied Force. The aircraft led the first Allied air strike against Yugoslavia on March 24, 1999.
Returning to the skies over Baghdad, F-117A’s launched Operation Iraqi Freedom with a decapitation strike on March 20, 2003. Striking key targets in the toppling of Saddam Hussein’s regime, 12 deployed F-117s flew more than 100 combat sorties in support of the global war on terrorism.
Officially the last F-117s left Holloman AFB in April 2008 with a stop at their birthplace in Palmdale, California, before ending up in their final resting place where their historic journey began in 1981 – Tonopah Test Range, Nevada. The aircraft were placed in Type 1000 storage in the event they were ever called back into duty.
In fact according to Scramble Magazine “ever since some fifty F-117As were retired from active duty in 2008, Nighthawk test-flying had been observed more often in the surroundings of Nevada’s Tonopah Test Range Airport, a part of Groom Lake or Area 51. The second half of 2016, the USAF revealed multiple Nighthawk sorties during daylight and even formation flying was witnessed.”
This article by Dario Leone originally appeared on The Aviation Geek Club in 2019.