Lockheed F-117 Night Hawk

TYPE: Low observable precision strike fighter

COUNTRY OF ORIGIN:: United States of America

POWERPLANTS: Two 48.0kN (10,800lb) non afterburning General Electric F404-GE-F1D2 turbofans.

PERFORMANCE: Max level speed 1040km/h (560kt), normal max operating speed Mach 0.9. Unrefuelled mission radius with a 2270kg (5000Ib) weapon load 1055km (570nm).

WEIGHTS: Estimated empty 13,380kg (29,500lb), max takeoff 23,815kg (52,500lb).

DIMENSIONS: Wing span 13.20m (43ft 4in), length overall 20.08m (65ft 11 in), height overall 3.78m (12ft 5in). Wing area 84.8m2 (91 S.Osq ft).


ARMAMENT: Usually two 910kg/2000lb bombs, either BLU-109B low level laser guided bombs or GBU-10 or GBU-27 laser guided bombs, in internal weapons bay. Can also carry AGM-65 Maverick or AGM-88 HARM ASMs and AIM-9 Sidewinder AAMs. No provision for external stores carriage.


HISTORY: Lockheed's 'Black Jet', the F-117 Night Hawk was designed in utmost secrecy from the ground up as a stealthy attack fighter.

Development of the F-117 traces back to the mid 1970s when the US Air Force awarded Lockheed's Advanced Development Company - 'Skunk Works' - a contract under the Have Blue program to develop an attack aircraft that would be very difficult to detect with radar. Two XST (Experimental Stealth Technology) Have Blue prototypes were built, and the first of these flew for the first time from Groom Lake in Nevada in December 1977. The two Have Blue demonstrators were powered by two small General Electric CJ610 turbojets and were similar in overall configuration to the ensuing F-117 except for inward canted tailplanes. Both XSTs had crashed by 1980.

Development of the operational F-117A began in November 1978 under the Senior Trend program, with the first of five preproduction F-117s flying for the first time on June 18 1981, while the first of an eventual 59 production F-117As was delivered in August 1982.

The F-117s were operated by the 4450 Tactical Group in complete secrecy at the remote Tonopah Test Range and all flights were undertaken at night. It was not until late 1988 that the veil of secrecy surrounding the F-117 was lifted when the US Department of Defense confirmed the aircraft's existence and the type began flying daylight missions. Today they equip they 37th Fighter Wing, based in New Mexico.

The F-117 uses a range of features to defeat radar and to remain undetected, or to be detected too late. Most obvious is the Night Hawk's faceted airframe construction and the avoidance of straight lines on doors and panels, so that radar energy is reflected in all directions. The airframe is also covered in a range of radar absorbent material (RAM) coatings. The two non afterburning F404 engines' gases mix with bypass air and exit through platypus exhausts to reduce the infrared signature.

Lockheed has also proposed the navalised F-117N 'Seahawk' to the US Navy to augment the F/A-18E.


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