Why the F-117 Nighthawk is still flown by the US Air Force

F-117 Nighthawk

Even though the United States Air Force stopped using the F-117 Nighthawk in 2008, there are still reports of the plane being in service as recently as 2022.

In terms of military technology, the F-117 Nighthawk ranks among the very best aircraft ever created. Lockheed's Skunk Works created the Nighthawk, a stealth attack plane. Prior to its 1988 introduction to the general public, little was known about it. The U.S. Air Force used the Nighthawk from 1983 to 2008, and it was highly praised for its performance in the 1991 Persian Gulf War and the 1999 Yugoslavian conflict. After the Nighthawk was retired, the F-22 Raptor stepped up to the plate.

Although it has been officially retired, the F-117 is still in use. Even though the US Air Force hasn't confirmed their use since 2008, the planes are seen almost every year.

In spite of this, it continues to attract a lot of attention from curious onlookers because it is still put to practical use. Over half of the retired fleet's airframes still see regular service. Four of them were even deployed covertly to the Middle East in 2016. These could have very well been engaged in military operations as well. The F-117 is still in service, despite having been officially retired for the past 14 years.

F-117 Nighthawk

F-117s are being spotted more frequently than ever before, according to reports.

The Nighthawk's sighting frequency would increase in the 2010s. Several were spotted in the NTTR that year (2010). In 2014, the Air Force Material Command made sure that the planes were being taken care of in the hangars at Tonopah as part of the flyable storage program. Even though the USAF said in 2017 that the F-117 would be retired for good, more and more of them were seen throughout the decade.

This does not appear to be the case, however, as the F-117 has been making appearances with some regularity over the past few years.

On September 13, 2021, two F-117s arrived at Fresno Air National Guard Base for the first "open mission," during which they were visible to the public. It would also be the first time in roughly 11 years that the USAF has officially confirmed that the F-117 is still in use. To celebrate 40 years of service, the tail of an F-117 with the identification number 828 (84-0828) was painted with special markings early in 2022. Most likely, these markings are new and show that the F-117 has been used for more than its original 25-year service life.

What justifies the F-117's continued use by the USAF?

Most people know that the F-117s are still being used because their main purpose is to attack. That's right, the Nighthawks have been relegated to the role of "enemy" in drills alongside the most advanced fighter jets in the United States Air Force's arsenal. They have been spotted with a variety of aircraft, from the F-16 to the F-15 and even the F-35 Lightning II. YouTube videos from 2021 and 2022 feature up-close looks at F-117s; many of these sightings take place in Death Valley and the Nevada Test & Training Range.

The fact that the USAF is still flying the Stealth Fighter is becoming less of a secret and more of a known fact. The planes have taken part in Red Flag exercises as aggressors. The F-117 is still in use for a number of reasons, including demonstration of successful storage procedures, evaluation of airworthiness, and evaluation of various stealth detection capabilities. At least one F-117 has been seen recently with a "mirror-like coating," which may have been an experiment to reduce the jet's infrared signature.

Enjoyable for Aviators of All Stripes

The fact that the USAF is still using the jet is exciting news for fans of military aviation and aircraft in general, regardless of the reasons for its continued use. F-117s that are still in use after being retired often make people think of mythical creatures because of how they look and how secret they are. It's good to see that the USAF finally admitted that the F-117 is still in use. It didn't make sense to deny that the jet was still in the air after so many sightings.

Incredibly Vibrant Despite Being 40 Years Old

It's incredible to think that some Nighthawks are still flying 40 years after they first took to the skies, with the TR tail code from their old Tonopah base still visible on their wings. The Nighthawk has always been a show-stopping plane, and the unknown purpose of this variant that is almost out of service only adds to its reputation. The F-117's final retirement date is unknown, but we expect to continue seeing the legendary Nighthawk in the skies for at least a few more years.

Dolph Nelson

Science and Technology enthusiast, obsessed with organic vegetables. He is intelligent and careful, but can also be very lazy and a bit grumpy. forcescast.com

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