Today the United States Air Force will retire its stealth attack fighter the F-117 Night Hawk. It was secretly developed at Skunk Works over 30 years ago and was the first stealth fighter built (it was designed without right angles). It proved incredibly valuable and effective. It saw action in Panama, Serbia and Iraq.
I can still remember the news broadcasts of the Gulf War. When young I was into aviation and military history so when my dad found the news coverage of the bombings in Iraq he called me to watch. It was in night vision green and all around the Iraqis were firing blindly into the dark night. The news reporter there was explaining that they were being bombed from the air but “There [were] no planes in the air.” The enemy was in complete confusion. The Night Hawks were sending their missiles down the ventilation holes and elevator shafts of enemy bunkers. It was impressive and we were not even sure what it was!
The Night Hawk will be retired as quietly as it was developed (it’s still highly classified and only those there at it development will be allowed to attend the retirement). After its retirement the Night Hawks will be taken to a top secret base in Nevada (as reported by the Los Angeles Times).
Its retirement is coming with the deployment of the new F-22 Raptor with uses the most modern stealth technology.
The Night Hawk has been impressive in its service to the United States and it will be a bit of a shame to see it go. It is a great example of the creation and innovation that naturally stem from competition. Seeing the article in the paper reminded me of what I enjoyed about aviation and military history. It also saddened me a bit to know that the F-117 would no longer be soaring the dark skies unseen.