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Lockheed F-117A Nighthawk

posted by Jiri Wagner

The F-117A Nighthawk is the world's first operational aircraft designed to exploit low-observable stealth technology. The unique design of the single-seat F-117A provides exceptional combat capabilities.

About the size of an F-15 Eagle, the twin-engine aircraft is powered by two General Electric F404 turbofan engines and has quadruple redundant fly-by-wire flight controls. Air refuelable, it supports worldwide commitments and adds to the deterrent strength of the U.S. military forces.

The F-117A can employ a variety of weapons and is equipped with sophisticated navigation and attack systems integrated into a state-of-the-art digital avionics suite that increases mission effectiveness and reduces pilot workload. Detailed planning for missions into highly defended target areas is accomplished by an automated mission planning system developed, specifically, to take advantage of the unique capabilities of the F-117A. The first F-117A was delivered in 1982, and the last delivery was in the summer of 1990. The F-117A production decision was made in 1978 with a contract awarded to Lockheed Advanced Development Projects, the "Skunk Works," in Burbank, Calif.

The first flight was in 1981, only 31 months after the full-scale development decision. 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. Streamlined management by Aeronautical Systems Center, Wright-Patterson AFB, Ohio, combined breakthrough stealth technology with concurrent development and production to rapidly field the aircraft.

The F-117A program has demonstrated that a stealth aircraft can be designed for reliability and maintainability. The aircraft maintenance statistics are comparable to other tactical fighters of similar complexity. Logistically supported by Sacramento Air Logistics Center, McClellan AFB, Calif., the F-117A is kept at the forefront of technology through a planned weapon system improvement program located at USAF Plant 42 at Palmdale, Calif.  

General characteristics

Primary function Fighter/attack
Contractor Lockheed Aeronautical Systems Co.
Thrust Two General Electric F404 engines
Length 65 ft 11 in 20.08 m
Height 12 ft 5 in 3.78 m
Wingspan 43 ft 4 in 13.2 m
Weight empty 30,000 lb 13,608 kg
max. takeoff 52,500 lb 23,814 kg
Max. cruising speed Mach 0.9 1,074 km/h
Max. speed over Mach 1 at very high altitude
Range with air refueling Unlimited 
combat cca 620 miles 1,000 km
Armament Internal weapons carriage
Crew One
Date deployed 1982
Inventory Active force, 54; ANG, 0; Reserve, 0
Unit cost $45 million


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