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"What Were the Stealth Fighters in Iraq?" Topic

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Cold Steel Inactive Member29 Apr 2012 4:03 p.m. PST

The F117 was used in Yugoslavia and Iraq. 1 was actually shot down by an obsolete SA-3 over Yugoslavia. It was retired in 2008.

Kaoschallenged Inactive Member29 Apr 2012 4:10 p.m. PST

"The F-117A Nighthawk stealth fighter attack aircraft was developed by Lockheed Martin after work on stealth technology, and the predecessor test demonstrator aircraft, Have Blue, was carried out in secret from 1975.

Development of the F-117A began in 1978 and it was first flown in 1981, but it was not until 1988 that its existence was publicly announced.

The Nighthawk is the world's first operational stealth aircraft. The first aircraft was delivered in 1982 and the last of the 59 Nighthawks procured by the US Air Force was received in 1990.

The F-117A aircraft is also known as the Frisbee and the Wobblin' Goblin. The mission of the aircraft is to penetrate dense threat environments and attack high-value targets with high accuracy. Nighthawk has been in operational service in Panama, during Operation Desert Storm, in Kosovo, in Afghanistan and during Operation Iraqi Freedom.
"The outer surface of Nighthawk is coated with a radar-absorbent material (RAM)."

The F-117 is being replaced in the USAF by the F-22 Raptor. The first 10 of the 55 F-117 aircraft in service were retired in December 2006. A formal retirement ceremony took place at Wright-Patterson AFB in March 2008.

The F-117s are being stored in hangars at an airfield in the Tonopah Test Range, Nevada. The wings and tails are being removed for storage, but some aircraft will be able to be rapidly recalled to flight if required. The last four F-117 aircraft flew to Tonopah on April 22nd 2008.

In January 2004, an F-117 successfully released a JDAM (JDAM) 2,000lb bomb for the first time. The integration of JDAM and other precision-guided weapons on the F-117 is coupled with the block II software upgrade and achieved initial operating capability (IOC) in 2006.

The Nighthawk is only used for night-time missions.

Nighthawk design

The surfaces and edge profiles are optimised to reflect hostile radar into narrow beam signals, directed away from the enemy radar detector. All the doors and opening panels on the aircraft have saw-toothed forward and trailing edges to reflect radar.

The aircraft is mainly constructed of aluminum, with titanium for areas of the engine and exhaust systems. The outer surface of the aircraft is coated with a radar-absorbent material (RAM). The radar cross-section of the F-117 has been estimated at between 10cm² and 100cm².

The F-117A has four elevons on the inboard and outboard trailing edge of the wing. The V-shaped tail, which controls the yaw of the aircraft, acts as a flying tail, which means that the whole surface acts as a control surface. The elevons do not act as flaps to reduce the rate of descent for touchdown, so the landing speed of the F-117A is high, at about 180mph to 190mph, and a drag parachute is used.
"The Nighthawk's surfaces and edge profiles are optimised to reflect hostile radar."


The cockpit has a Kaiser Electronics head-up display (HUD) and the flight deck is equipped with a large video monitor, which displays the infrared imagery from the aircraft's onboard sensors. The cockpit has a full-colour moving map developed by the Harris Corporation. The fly-by-wire system is supplied by BAE Systems Aircraft Controls.


The aircraft can carry a range of tactical fighter ordnance in the weapons bay, including BLU-109B low-level laser-guided bomb, GBU-10 and GBU-27 laser-guided bomb units, Raytheon AGM-65 Maverick and Raytheon AGM-88 HARM air-to-surface missiles.


For stealth, the F-117A does not rely on radar for navigation or targeting. For navigation and weapon aiming, the aircraft is equipped with a forward-looking infrared (FLIR) and a downward-looking infrared (DLIR) with laser designator, supplied by Raytheon. The aircraft uses a Honeywell inertial navigation system.

The aircraft has multi-channel pilot static tubes installed in the nose. Multiple ports along the length of the tubes provide differential pressure readings. The flight control computers compare these in order to provide the aircraft's flight data.

Flight management

Before flight, mission data is downloaded on to the IBM AP-102 mission control computer, which integrates it with the navigation and flight controls to provide a fully automated flight management system.

After take-off, the pilot can hand over flight control to the mission programme until within visual range of the mission's first target. The pilot then resumes control of the aircraft for weapon delivery.
"The F-117A aircraft is also known as the Frisbee and the Wobblin' Goblin."

The aircraft is equipped with an infrared acquisition and designation system (IRADS), which is integrated with the weapon delivery system. The pilot is presented with a view of the target on the head-up display, first from the FLIR and then from the DLIR.

The weapon delivery and impact is recorded on the aircraft's internally mounted video system, which provides real-time damage assessment.


The F-117A is powered by two low-bypass F404-GE-F1D2 turbofan engines from General Electric. The rectangular air intakes on both sides of the fuselage are covered by gratings, which are coated with radar-absorbent material.

The wide and flat structure of the engine exhaust area reduces the infrared and radar detectability of the aft section of the engine. The two large tail fins slant slightly outwards to provide an obstruction to the infrared and radar returns from the engine exhaust area."


Kaoschallenged Inactive Member29 Apr 2012 4:14 p.m. PST

"Zoltan Dani: who shot down allegedly invisible USAF F-117 Nighthawk with a Russian built missile recalls the events.

Zoltan Dani: I shot down US stealth fighter

NATO's military operation against Yugoslavia has already gone down in history. The 1999 Operation Merciful Angel specifically saw the shooting down by Serbia of an F-117 stealth fighter which was billed as an invulnerable aircraft by the United States. The F-117 was downed by Colonel Zoltan Dani, former commander of the 3rd battery of the 250th Missile Brigade in Belgrade, on March 27, 1999.

In an interview with the Voice of Russia broadcast on Friday, Dani, who retired in 2004 and now owns a small bakery outside Belgrade, elaborated on the March 27 events:

"At about 18:00 local time, we were ordered to turn on the system. We checked out the functionality of the missile defense system, reporting that the 3rd battery was on combat alert. After 20:00, a NATO airstrike began which prompted us to turn on the radar that tracked down an approaching target. We asked the mission control center to act against this aircraft, and at 20:41 we got the go-ahead. At 20:42, the target was destroyed. It took us 18 seconds to do so."

How did you manage to spot the stealth fighter?

To that end, we used the Soviet-made P18 meter band radar which is capable of tracking any warplane irrespective of the configuration of its fuselage. The radar started to emit and we discovered a target at a distance of 15 kilometers – something that our operators were distinctly seeing on a display. I was quick to order the launch of a missile which destroyed the target.

You mean that you managed to shoot down the sophisticated aircraft with the help of the vintage S-125Neva anti-aircraft system?

I don't quite agree with you. Of course, Russia has more advanced missile defense systems, but I proceed from the assumption that a cat's color does not contribute to its ability to catch mice. At the time, the S-125Neva was believed to be a rather advanced system, and we had no other systems to tackle NATO airstrikes.

Is it true that you subsequently got acquainted with a pilot of the downed F-117?

I only want to say that a relevant documentary, the Second Meeting, is due to be released before the end of this year. It took us almost four years to meet – an occasion that was held in a positive atmosphere and that helped us to bolster our communication which is still under way. Our project aims to hammer home how important world peace and family values are…"


Captain DEwell Inactive Member29 Apr 2012 4:29 p.m. PST

Now you don't see them. Now you don't!

Toaster29 Apr 2012 7:47 p.m. PST

The mistake the US made was to fly the same path each night which allowed the Yugoslavs to set an ambush, also stealth is designed to work against modern cm band radrs and older radars were the wavelenght approaches the wingspan are almost compleatly immune to it (because there getting reflections off large pieces of structure not the treated skin).


Lion in the Stars30 Apr 2012 5:43 a.m. PST

Not to mention that the F117 was detected as it turned and presented a big flat plate to the radar!

jdginaz30 Apr 2012 6:12 a.m. PST

If I'm not mistaken Zoltan has told several different versions of the tale.

It was the NATO command group that had the Stealth fighter using the same routes despite warnings from the squadrons command that it was a bad idea.

Ed Mohrmann Supporting Member of TMP30 Apr 2012 8:06 a.m. PST

I hope there's a more constructive answer out there, but who knows, flicking wargamer might be right. Richard

epturner Inactive Member30 Apr 2012 8:30 a.m. PST

Whatever they were, they were freakin' noisy. I was housed in the Pod in the USAF housing area at LSA Anaconda in '07-'08 and whomever was flying was playing at "Dawn Patrol" well before dawn…

It was like living right next to Logan Airport in Boston.


CorpCommander30 Apr 2012 3:11 p.m. PST

Another interesting fact is that the whole concept of the stealth design isn't based entirely on RAM (just the obtrusive bits), the rest of is is designed to reflect radar or get the beam to self-cancel. This was only made possible because of an equation published by a Russian named Petr Ufimtsev.

From Wikipedia: Ufimtsev became interested in describing the reflection of lasers while working in Moscow. He gained permission to do work on it after being advised that work was useless and would curtail his advancement. Because the work was considered of no military or economic value, Ufimtsev was allowed to publish his work internationally.[2]

A stealth engineer at Lockheed, Denys Overholser, had read the publication and realized that Ufimtsev had created the mathematical theory and tools to do finite analysis of radar reflection.[3] This discovery inspired and had a big role in the design of the first true stealth aircraft, the Lockheed F-117. Northrop also used Ufimtsev's work to program super computers to predict the radar reflection of the B-2 bomber.

In the 1960s Ufimtsev began developing a high-frequency asymptotic theory for predicting the scattering of electromagnetic waves from two-dimensional and three-dimensional objects. Among such objects were the finite size bodies of revolution (disk, finite cylinder with flat bases, finite cone, finite paraboloid, spherical segment, finite thin wire). This theory is now well known as the Physical Theory of Diffraction (PTD).

Ed Mohrmann Supporting Member of TMP30 Apr 2012 4:56 p.m. PST

Well, the TMP Bug is apparently alive and well and
has infected Modern Aviation Discussion.

The message which I posted was:

How does one reconcile the serial sequence of fighter
numerization with the fact that the F-4 (and others)
appeared long before the F-117 appeared ?

Given 'normal' serialization, the F-117 should have
appeared in the mid-to-late 60's, instead of 20 years

That is a heck of a long time in development.

CorpCommander01 May 2012 6:58 p.m. PST

Well technically Ed that is when it began development. The idea was there, it just took a long time to make the tools and perfect the science of measuring the stealth capabilities correctly to really get it right. 20 years is a long time but not by more than 1 factor.

Lion in the Stars02 May 2012 3:19 a.m. PST

The story I heard is that the "F-117" designation was used by pilots that were flying things that were so classified that the US Government couldn't admit they existed, like MiGs we'd "borrowed".

So the stealth fighter program used "F-117" for a while, and it was going to be standardized as the F-19 (designwise it was after the F18). In the meantime, Lockheed had printed all their manuals with "F-117A", and Uncle Sam wouldn't pay (flat refused to pay) for getting them reprinted with the 'correct' designation!

Ed Mohrmann Supporting Member of TMP02 May 2012 5:48 a.m. PST

CC, thanks, that explanation makes sense, at least to
me. I suppose that technology, especially the design
of the external 'envelope' of the aircraft, would have
needed a great deal of 'try for fit' type of exercises.

Lion – an interesting idea. For a brief period, I had
charge of some technical writers (although admittedly
not for aircraft). We weren't supposed, for internal
security reasons, to put product names in specimen
documents (presented for proofreading).

The other thing is, for government projects (like the
on-board computers in the Gemini and Apollo craft),
the government assigned the code names for those
units (code isn't meant to imply secrecy – just the
'convenience' name by which the units were known).

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