It’s been 35 years since the F-117A Nighthawk entered service in the U.S. Air Force and almost 11 years after its official retirement in 2008, but the world’s first stealth plane (as far as we know it) seems to remain an important military option for the United States.
In late February, photographer Dan Stijovich was able to photograph an F-117A flying over California’s Death Valley National Park. It was not the first time that the Lockheed Martin jet was seen flying after its retirement and the fact is not surprising since the USAF maintained most of the 64 aircraft constructed in conditions of flight.
The new fact, however, was the claim of the renowned Dutch magazine Scramble which revealed that four F-117s were deployed in air strikes in Syria in 2017.
Details were not reported, but the magazine had access to information that the USAF maintains some F-117s in flight conditions to be used when needed. The big question is why can an aircraft already considered obsolete be useful if there are more modern fighters like the F-22 Raptor and the F-35 Lightining II?
Built almost handcrafted, the F-117 is certainly a complex and expensive maintenance aircraft, although it has taken advantage of parts of other fighters that existed at the time of its design. In addition, there is also the need to keep pilots trained to fly it, something that requires regular flights – perhaps there is the explanation for so many appearances of the model in the California desert.
Although apparently useful in the war scenario imagined by the USAF, the F-117 had problems. One of the planes, according to Scramble, would have had an in-flight emergency and landed at an airport far from home base in the Middle East.
Even so, it is fabulous to think that an aircraft designed in the 1970s following such original concepts is still relevant in the theater of war of the 21st Century.
See also: Black projects, the US secret planes