Design Features

The unique design of the single-seat F-117A provides exceptional combat capabilities. About the size of an F-15 Eagle, the aircraft is has a conventional aluminum, titanium and stainless steel rib and stringer semi-monoque structure. Externally, this unique aircraft is composed of numerous facets to direct radar energy away from the emitter, much like the design of the Hopeless Diamond model Have Blue vehicle. In order to lower its Radar Cross Section (RCS), leading and trailing edges are composed of non-metallic honeycomb structures and the entire aircraft is covered with a thin layer of Radar Absorbent Material (RAM). The “V” shaped twin tails are graphite thermoplastic composite structures. All openings in the aircraft (engine inlets, vents etc.) are covered with grids or screens to reduce radar reflection. 

In order to reduce cost and speed development of the F-117, off the shelf hardware was used some cases. Two 13,000 lb. thrust class General Electric F404 non-afterburning turbofan engines derived from the Navy F-18 power the aircraft. The aircraft is also equipped with an F-18 derived Auxiliary Power Unit (APU) to permit self starting of the main engines and provide backup electric and hydraulic power. Its quadruple redundant fly-by-wire flight control system, critical to flight of this inherently unstable aircraft, is derived from the F-16. Three IBM mission computers, derived from those used on the Space Shuttle, drive the complete avionics suite. 

Modern digital avionics is the heart of this precision bombing platform, increasing mission effectiveness and decreasing pilot workload. The F-117 cockpit is equipped with Heads up display (HUD), twin color multifunction display indicators, and a digital moving map system. Navigation duties are handled by a state of the art Ring Laser Gyro (RLG) and Global Positioning System (GPS). To perform its night bombing mission, the Black Jet utilizes an Infra Red Acquisition and Designation System (IRADS) with forward and down looking capability. The laser targeting function of the IRADS guides the array of precision laser guided munitions carried by the F-117 with deadly accuracy. Although this aircraft can employ a variety of tactical and precision munitions, the weapon of choice is the laser guided GBU-27, a 2000 lb. penetrator with a hardened steel case, developed specifically for the F-117. With its ability to penetrate over 6 feet of reinforced concrete, destruction of command and control bunkers and hardened aircraft shelters is standard duty for the Black Jet. 

F-117 Cockpit

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. This sophisticated system, utilizing high speed computer technology, calculates the most survivable flight path in and out of the target area. Air refuelable, the F-117 can support worldwide commitments, and stands as a formidable deterrent within the U.S. military forces. 

The F-117A program has demonstrated that a stealth aircraft can be designed for reliability and maintainability.  Aircraft maintenance and mission capability statistics are comparable or exceed those of other tactical fighters of similar complexity. Additionally, the Black Jet is kept at the forefront of technology through a planned weapon system improvement program. Now in its seventh Configuration Upgrade program, aircraft from the 49th Fighter Wing are cycling back through LM Aero facilities in Palmdale CA for a major improvement to the Low Observable system, along with enhancements to the Stores Management System and Operational Flight Program (OFP) software, enabling the F-117 to carry a new class of GPS guided munitions. Future upgrades are planned to expand the Nighthawk’s mission capability and avert hardware obsolescence in the avionics suite.

F-117 Mission

The F-117A Nighthawk is the world's first operational aircraft designed to exploit low-observable stealth technology, enabling survivable penetration of dense threat environments and attack of high value targets with pin point accuracy. Utilizing its stealth capability in an armed conflict, the F-117 will be tasked with “first night” missions to attack and destroy enemy command and control centers, air defenses and weapons of mass destruction. The precision bombing capability of the F-117 enables battle- field commanders to destroy these high value targets with minimal collateral damage and unnecessary loss of life. Following the initial Nighthawk raid, conventional bombers can be employed with the threat now minimized.

F-117 Sustainment

Initially, the F-117 received Logistics sustainment from a covert detachment of the Air Force Aeronautical Systems Command, located at the then Norton AFB in San Bernardino, CA. As the fleet grew, sustainment responsibility migrated to the Sacramento Air Logistics Command (ALC), Mc Clellan AFB, in July 1985. From that time until October 1998, Sacramento ALC was responsible for government management of the F-117 program and support of the 49th Fighter Wing at Holloman AFB, NM. 

Then, beginning in July 1995, a whole new chapter in the business of sustainment for the F-117 began. As a cost reduction candidate. General Viccellio, then commander of Air Force Material Command (AFMC) at Wright-Patterson AFB, proposed Contractor Logistics Support (CLS) for the F-117 weapon system. Because McClellan AFB had been identified on the Base Relocation and Closure (BRAC) list, the Air Force F-117 System Program Office (SPO) would have been required to relocate in any case. The timing was opportune for using the F-117 as a “Pilot Project” for CLS.

Lockheed Martin Aeronautics Company (LM Aero) proposed a potential Operations and Maintenance (O&M) cost savings by transfer of certain functions performed by the SPO to LM Aero. In this way, any functional duplication at both sites would be eliminated and overall manning at the SPO would drastically reduce over a three year period.  Most reductions would occur in the first year after contract start. The proposal assumed the SPO would retain “core” functions inherent as government responsibilities in managing the program. Activities to remain at the SPO were identified as: program direction, requirements determination, contract management, budgeting/financial execution, product/service acceptance, and security. The expansion of LM Aero’s role was to include sustainment, integration and modification, systems engineering, subcontractor management, system/subsystem integration, materiel management and warehousing, spares and repairs, direct field support to the 49th Fighter Wing, and Air Force reporting requirements support. The bottom line of the TSPR concept was to provide support to the 49th Fighter Wing, at a level equal to or better than that provided by ALC, with an overall cost savings to the Air Force. 

Air Force Acquisition leaders were very impressed with the TSPR proposal and in 1997 presented an Air Force “Lightning Bolt Award” for outstanding contribution in support of Acquisition Reform and Secretary of the Air Force (SAF) Acquisition (AQ) initiatives. On 24 Sep 97 the decision was made by SAF/Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary, Ms. Darlene Druyun to accept the proposal and initiate the TSPR contract with implementation on 1
October 1998. 

The simplified, long term TSPR contract objective was to provide increased flexibility and incentives to meet operational performance needs, and reduce the total costs of ownership. Contractor performance under TSPR is incentivized through a cost plus arrangement with award fee and incentive fee provisions, based on 12 month rolling averages of performance metrics. Additional costs and saving are “shared” 50/50 between the Air Force and LM Aero. The contract is based on an eight-year strategy with LM Aero committed to a 10% savings, dependent on stabilized funding, over the contract life. 

LM Aero’s performance under TSPR is measured by the following seven objective metrics most commonly used by the SPO and/or Air Combat Command customers (warfighter/stakeholders) to measure logistics combat readiness and support effectiveness:

  • Not Mission Capable for Supply (NMCS) rate in percent
  • Mission Impact (MICAP) Parts Delivery in hours
  • Readiness Spares Package (RSP) kit fill rate in percent
  • Configuration Upgrade & Modification Line (CU) schedule compliance in number of days late 
  • Depot Aircraft Quality in number of discrepancies (major/minor)
  • Deficiency Report responsiveness in number of reports delinquent
  • Weapon System Trainer (WST) in percent time available

In the 32 months since TSPR contract go-ahead, overall performance and customer satisfaction has been superb. LM Aero moving average metric performance has maintained a score of 100% and award fees have consistently ranged from 98% to 100% in each fee period. Additionally, TSPR has accrued over $19M in cost savings to date, shared 50/50 with the Air Force, plus the up front savings of $162M. In the first two years of TSPR, sustainment costs have reduced 12% over traditional support. Sustainment enhancements include Digital Technical Publications, Lean manufacturing and repair processes, significantly shorter spares ordering spans and reduced Engineering response times, enabling an increase in aircraft availability by 5%.

Combat Performance

The F-117 was a major contributor to the successes of both Operations Desert Storm and Allied Force. The inherent survivability and combat capabilities of the F-117 played a key role in the destruction of high value targets such as nuclear/biological/chemical weapons facilities, hardened aircraft shelters, command and control centers, and surface to air missile installations. The 49th Fighter Wing has amassed impressive combat statistics in both campaigns. The F-117 only comprised 2-3% of coalition forces, but accounted for 30-35% of first night targets and hit rates of 75% in Desert Storm to over 90% in Allied Force. Mission Capability rates exceeding 82% in both combat employments.

We Fly To The Sunset

After 25 Years of legendary service, the F-117 Nighthawk, the Air Force's first stealth fighter, is retiring. The technology that made it a unique strategic weapon system; really reshaped how the Air Force looked at strategic warfare. The Nighthawk was the first of its kind, a fact anyone who has spent time around the aircraft is quick to point out
The jet performed magnificently, exceeding all requirements originally identified. This was exemplified during the Summer of 2006, when the 49th Fighter Wing passed the 250,000-flight hour mark. Quite a feat for such a small fleet - four successful campaigns under our belts and only one aircraft was ever shot down.
We officially started saying goodbye and a "job well done", last October 2006 to commemorate 25 years of Nighthawk history at the Silver Stealth ceremony at Holloman Air Force Base, New Mexico. We celebrated our 25 year "milestone" at the F-117 Stealth Fighter Reunion Celebration in Las Vegas, June 2007. 
With pride we look at the dreams, design, construction, flight, maintenance and support of an aircraft that showed all of our vision, defiance, passion, heroism and sacrifice.
As we say goodbye to the tail numbers one-by-one, as we witness a inactivation ceremony, and participate in the transition of our lives, we are reminded that during our 25 Years of the Nighthawk, that we truly own the night ! 

Project Harvey

In 1975, Ed Martin and Ben Rich solicited the help of five engineers from Lockheed's Advanced Design and Skunk Works Engineers to help prepare a proposal for the Experimental Survivable Testbed (XST) program using discretionary funds.  This Lockheed XST Program was named "Project Harvey" after the 1950 movie titled Harvey, staring James Stewart, about an invisible six foot rabbit that could only be seen by one person, Stewart.  Dick Scherrer was the Project Harvey Program Manager and Leo Celniker was the Proposal Manager for the XST proposal.  The product of Project Harvey was the Hopeless Diamond.

Hopeless Diamond

During 1975, Skunk Work engineers began working on an aircraft which would have a greatly reduced radar cross section that would make it all but invisible to enemy radars, but would nevertheless still be able to fly and carry out its combat mission. The technique that they came up with was known as faceting, in which the ordinarily smooth surface of the airframe is broken up into a series of trapezoidal or triangular flat surfaces. The surfaces were arranged in such a way that the vast majority of the radar incident on the aircraft will be scattered away from the aircraft at odd angles, leaving very little to be reflected directly back into the receiver. An additional reduction in radar cross section was to be obtained by covering the entire surface of the aircraft with radar absorbent material (RAM). One of the disadvantages involved in the use of faceting on aerodynamic surfaces was that it tended to produce an aircraft which was inherently unstable about all three axes - pitch, roll, and yaw. 

James Clerk Maxwell, a Scottish physicist, has derived a set of equations that could predict how a body of a given shape would scatter, or reflect, electromagnetic radiation. Two Skunk Works engineers cracked Maxwell's ciphers in 1975. Veteran designer Bill Schroeder sketched a flyable, controllable aircraft with no curved surfaces at all, except for small-radius, straight edges to its wings and tail surfaces. It was as if a diamond had been cut to the shape of an aircraft, and the technique came to be called "faceting". Schroeder took the problem to Dennis Overholser, a software engineer. Using a Cray computer, Overholser developed a program that could model the scattering from Schroeder's new faceted shapes, and predict their Radar Cross Section (RCS), in a reasonable amount of time.  Because Denny's early work was totally funded with Lockheed funds, the computer program and the faceted designs belonged to Lockheed.  Lockheed owns the patent for the faceted designs.  From the computer program, the Skunk Works engineers created a ten-foot wooden model dubbed the "Hopeless Diamond". The model was taken to an outdoor radar test range on the Mojave Desert near Palmdale. The model was mounted on a 12-foot high pole, and the radar dish zeroed in from about 1,500 feet away. The site radar operator could not see the model on the radar, until a black bird landed right on top of the Hopeless Diamond. The radar was only picking up the bird....

In March 1976, the Skunk Works built a model out of wood, all flat panels, thirty-eight feet long, and painted black. It was hauled to White Sands New Mexico for competition against Northrop's candidate. The Skunk Works model had a lower RCS than the pole it was mounted on so Lockheed built a new pole. In April 1976, Lockheed won the competition and the "Have Blue" program was born.  Lockheed was the winner, not only because the Hopeless Diamond's low RCS, but also because Lockheed has a computer model which could predict the signature - something that the competition did not have.

Have Blue

The F-117A was the first warplane to be specifically designed from the outset for low radar observability.  Lockheed Advanced Development Projects (better known as the "Skunk Works") began working on stealth as far back as the late 1950s, and low radar observability had played a role in the design of the A-12/YF-12/SR-71 series of Mach 3+ aircraft.

In early 1977, Lockheed received a contract from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) for the construction of two 60-percent scale flyable test aircraft under a project named Have Blue. The name Have Blue seems to have no specific meaning, probably having been chosen at random from an approved list of secret project names. Shortly after the Have Blue contract was let, the project was transferred over to Air Force System Command control and became highly "black", with all information about it being highly classified and restricted to those with a need to know. Outside of a few people at Lockheed and the Defense Department, no one knew that Have Blue even existed.

The two Have Blue aircraft were built at Lockheed in only a few months. The first example was intended to evaluate the type's flying characteristics, whereas the second was to evaluate the radar signature. In order to save some time and money, existing off-the-shelf components were used where feasible. The engines were a pair of standard production non-afterburning General Electric J85s, mounted in enclosures sitting atop the wings. The main landing gear was taken from a Fairchild Republic A-10, and fly-by-wire components were scavenged from an F-16. The instrumentation and the ejection seat were taken from a Northrop F-5. The Have Blue aircraft had the same general shape as that which would later become familiar with the F-117A, except that the twin rudders were located forward of the exhaust ejectors and were angled inward rather than outward. The inward cant was about 30 degrees. 

The leading edge of the semi-delta wing was swept back at 72.5 degrees. The wing featured two inboard trailing edge elevons for pitch and roll control. Four spoilers (two on top of the wing and two on the bottom) were mounted just forward of the elevons. There were no flaps or speed brakes. The wing trailing edge was less deeply notched than that of the F-117A. A single cockpit with an ejection seat was provided. The Have Blue aircraft employed V-type windshields (similar to those of the F-102/F-106). No weapons bay or any sort of tactical equipment was fitted. 

The Have Blue aircraft were equipped with fly-by-wire (FBW) flight controls that were adapted from the F-16 system. However, the system had to be modified to handle an aircraft that was unstable about all three axes (the F-16 is unstable only about the pitch axis). The problem of designing a stealthy system for airspeed measurement had not yet been solved, and the aircraft were equipped with a conventional pitot tube that retracted when they were being tested for radar reflections. The inertial navigation system provided enough speed data for test purposes when the probe was retracted. 

Two prototypes were built at a cost of $37 million for both aircraft. Lockheed workers assembled the two Have Blue aircraft in a cordoned-off area in Building 83C, Burbank, California. Neither aircraft ever received an official DoD designation, nor did they get a USAF serial number.  However, Lockheed did give the aircraft its own manufacturer's serial numbers, 1001 and 1002.


The first example (1001) was finished in November of 1977. In order to keep the project away from prying eyes, the Have Blue prototype was shipped out to the Groom Lake Test Facility in Nevada in high secrecy for the test flights.  Groom Lake is located in a particularly remote area of the Nellis test range complex, and is a good location for the testing of secret aircraft. A camouflage paint scheme was applied to make it hard for unwanted observers at Groom Lake to determine the aircraft's shape. 

The first flight of the Have Blue took place in January or February of 1978 (the exact date is still classified), with veteran Lockheed test pilot William M. "Bill" Park at the controls. At an early stage, Lt. Col. Norman Kenneth “Ken” Dyson of the USAF assisted Bill Park in the flight test program. 

Flight test of the Have Blue initially went fairly smoothly, and the fly-by-wire system functioned well. The landing speed was quite high (160 knots), as expected because of the lack of flaps or speed brakes. However, on May 4, 1978, Have Blue prototype number 1001 was landing after a routine test flight when it hit the ground excessively hard, jamming the right main landing gear in a semi-retracted position. Pilot Bill Park pulled the aircraft back into the air, and repeatedly tried to shake the gear back down again. After his third attempt failed, he was ordered to take the aircraft up to 10,000 feet and eject. Park ejected successfully, but he hit his head and was knocked unconscious. Since he was unable to control his parachute during descent or landing, his back was severely injured on impact. He survived, but was forced to retire from flying. The Have Blue aircraft was destroyed in the crash.

Have Blue 1002 arrived at Groom Lake shortly after the loss of number 1. It took to the air for the first time in June of 1978, Lt. Col. Ken Dyson being at the controls. From mid-1978 until early 1980, Lt. Col. Dyson flew more than 65 test sorties, testing the response of the aircraft to various types of radar threats. The Have Blue prototype 1002 proved to be essentially undetectable by all airborne radars except the Boeing E-3 AWACS, which could only acquire the aircraft at short ranges. Most ground-based missile tracking radars could detect the Have Blue only after it was well inside the minimum range for the surface-to-air missiles with which they were associated. Neither ground-based radars nor air-to-air missile guidance radars could lock onto the aircraft. It was found that the best tactic to avoid radar detection was to approach the radar site head on, presenting the Have Blue's small nose-on signature. 

Application of the RAM proved to be rather tricky, and that ground crews had to be careful to seal all joints thoroughly before each flight. RAM came in linoleum-like sheets, which were cut to shape and bonded to the skin to cover large areas. Doors and access panels had to be carefully checked and adjusted for a tight fit between flights and all gaps had to be filled in with conductive tape and then covered over with RAM. Paint-type RAM was available, but it had to be built up by hand, coat by coat. Even the gaps around the canopy and the fuel-filler door had to be filled with paint-type RAM before each flight. Ground crews had to even make sure that all surface screws were completely tight, since even one loose screw for an access panel could make the aircraft show up like a "barn door coming over the horizon" during radar signature tests. 

Have Blue number 1002 was lost in July of 1979. During its 52nd flight with Lt. Col. Dyson at the controls, one of its J85 engines caught fire. The subsequent fire got so intense that the hydraulic fluid lines were burned through.  Lt. Col. Dyson was forced to eject, and 1002 was a total loss. No further Have Blue aircraft were built, since the general concept had been proven.

F-117 History

The gain of valuable engineering data during the Have Blue flight test program led to a Full Scale Development (FSD) decision by the Air Force and contract award to the Lockheed Skunk Works on November 16, 1978. The original order was for five FSD test aircraft and 15 production articles. The initial F-117 delivered in June 1981 and subsequent production lots of varying quantities yielded a total of 64 aircraft built through July 1990. As of May 2001, 51 production and 3 FSD test aircraft are still active. 

Streamlined management by Aeronautical Systems Center, Wright-Patterson AFB, Ohio, in close coordination with the Skunk Works, combined breakthrough stealth technology with concurrent development and production. The result of this effort, shrouded in secrecy rivaling that of the Manhattan Project to develop the atomic bomb, was declaration of Initial Operating Capability (IOC) after delivery of the fourteenth F-117 in October 1983. Incredibly, IOC occurred in just under five years after production go ahead, about half the time for most programs. 

Beginning in 1982, the 4450th Tactical Group operated the F-117 through the first years of its existence at the Tonopah Test Range. This covert facility in central Nevada at the north end of the Nellis complex, enabled the concurrent development and production of the F-117 to continue far from the prying eyes of the media. By late 1989, as the F-117 was reaching maturity and now a publicly acknowledged program, the Air Force wanted to redefine its operating command to a combat unit versus a test organization as was the 4450th TG’s heritage. In October 1989, the 4450th was deactivated and became the 37th Tactical Fighter Wing, which continued to operate the F-117 through its first combat employments. 

In venturing out of the “Black World” following the successful Desert Storm campaign, the F-117’s transition to conventional base operations was a natural progression to fully integrate this new and very effective tool into the Air Force arsenal. By mid 1992, the F-117 Wing transferred operations to Holloman Air Force Base in Alamogordo NM. At the same time, it was also redesignated the 49th Fighter Wing, carrying on the proud heritage of 43 Air Aces from the Second World War.

F-117A CLIMATIC TEST

Following acknowledgement of the existence of the F-117A aircraft in November 1988, efforts were begun to assimilate its unique capabilities into the national integrated air defense system. Because no operational environment specification existed for the aircraft, a decision was made to subject it to climatic testing to determine how the aircraft and its systems would perform if it were required to be operated and maintained outside of its normal hangar sheltered environment. Responsibility for the test was assigned to the 6510th Test Wing at Edwards AFB, CA, and a full range of climatic testing per provisions of MIL SPEC 210 was selected. Planning, publication of a formal test plan, and support contracting occurred from February of 1990 through March 1991.

Aircraft 824 had undergone installation of all scheduled Depot and Field modifications by April 1991. Considered to be typical and representative of the rest of the operational fleet, it was selected for the test, and was flown from PS-66 to the Climatic Test Chamber at Eglin AFB, FL on July 9th, 1991. The aircraft was prepped and then installed in the Chamber using special fixtures and tooling designed to allow simulation of conditions in flight. Testing began under cold weather conditions (-40 F ambient) on July 15th 1991, and continued through conditions of snow loading, blowing snow, hail, freezing rain, ice and fog, hot weather (140 F ambient), water intrusion testing, and concluded in January 1992 with tropical rain and human factors evaluations. Cold soaks to -60 F and 160 F were also included. A typical mission "flown" included pre-flight, pilot ingress, APU and engine start, full power takeoff, cruise, systems operation and weapon delivery, landing, pilot egress, and post flight inspection. Aircraft maintenance was performed and evaluated throughout the testing sequence.

Support for this test was provided by all agencies associated with the aircraft at that time. Program oversight and funding were provided by SPO at Wright Patterson AFB, test direction, control and instrumentation by the 6510th Test Wing at Edwards AFB, logistics support, failure analysis, and component spares by SM-ALC/QL at Mc McClellan AFB and the Skunk works at Burbank. Pilots, maintenance, and security personnel were provided jointly by the 37th TFW at PS-66 and the CTF on a rotational basis, and test facilities and support equipment by the Climatic Test Organization at Eglin AFB. To expedite resolution of problems encountered, direct on-site engineering support and liaison was provided throughout the test by a single FSR from the Skunk Works.

The Climatic Test was successfully completed in early January 1992, and Aircraft 824 was removed from the test chamber. It was inspected, pre-flighted, and returned to home base shortly thereafter. Several improvements to aircraft systems were ultimately incorporated as a result of analysis of test data collected. A final tribute to the F-117A design is that it is one of the very few Aircraft to undergo climatic testing and return home under its own power.

A Look Back to the People

Making the F-117 the World's Greatest

Tack Nix brought a number of pins/buttons to the first flight location and passed them around.  The buttons read: “I work for the Merk”.  Hal Farley wore one during his first flight and upon his return, scratched 6/18/81 on the back of his button and gave it to me along with a copy of the flight log of the first flight (14 minutes long).

Another thing I remember about first flight was this.  I was supposed to go to Nellis AFB with first flight film for hand delivery back to Washington. I had a security escort and rules then were that program material had to be transported on a military airplane.  Due to the uncertain of the first flight date, we could not schedule our own military aircraft.  The Pentagon had given me a code to use, which would allow me to commandeer the first military plane through Nellis AFB.  The first plane happened to be a T-39 carrying a 3-Star General and his Staff to Wright-Patterson AFB.  I was in civilian clothes so the General could not tell that I was only a Colonel. After I took his airplane, he approached me asking my rank.  I told him I was a Colonel.  He replied: “Colonel, I have enough space on my plane to carry you as far as Dayton, OH; however your partner will need to find alternate transportation”.  I then stated: “General, there is enough room on my plane for you, but not your Staff, and our first stop will be Andrews AFB near Washington”.  After the General made some phone calls trying to find out what was happening, we departed for Washington.  Needless to say, the General was not happy but no one could tell him what was going on. The following pictures are from the 4450th at Tonopah, NV circa 1992.

Picture celebrating the 100th TAC sortie at Tonapah in August 1984.  The 4450th TAC group personnel shown were from maintenance and OPS Support.  Doug Robinson is in the Camo's.  To his right, in the flight suit is ADO Pete Bernstien.  LTC Sandy Sharpe is under the roller wheel on the door (back row).  Maj. Bob Williams was the 100th sortie pilot.  His crew chief, Tsgt Shirley is holding the sign.  Robin Wohnsigl is the last person on the far right.


Origins on the Nighthawk Patch from Sandy Sharpe

When we first came to Nellis in the '79/80 timeframe, we were in trailers on the flight line for the A-7 ops and had a concrete building up in the weapons storage area.  We talked about having a patch for added cover asmost "normal" units always had patches. At the time we were telling folks we were doing "avionics testing" and we flew a lot at night. We always carried an ECM pod. So it was assumed we were doing night "electronic"avionics testing. I liked/picked the name "nighthawks" and Col. Bob Jackson, first 4450th/CC, agreed. So I went to a large Webster's dictionary to see if there was a picture of a nighthawk. There was, and Msgt HalColeman, NCOIC Intell, actually used the picture in the dictionary to draw up the first patch (his drawing is below). We added a ruby eye to denote our use of the laser in the F117. The stiletto in the hawks mouth was bothfor stealth and we thought of our mission as that of a single ship "assassin" at the time. The hawk also carries a bomb in one claw to indicate we had a lethal mission and lightening bolts in the other claw to highlight the "electronic" part of the cover story. We sent this original drawing to General Creech, TAC/CC, and he said he thought the hawk looked too much like a dove and had his public affairs artist redraw the hawk to it's present configuration. One other interesting part of this story is that in that same Webster's dictionary, the definition said the nighthawk was also known as a "goatsucker". Naturally, Al Whitley and Denny Larson, with their cleverwit, jumped all over that name and adopted it as the name of the school house unit at another location. Don't know who drew up their patch; but, that was it's origins.

4450_hawk.jpg

TAC Management Team at PS22 at the back of Sam's

From Left to Right: Tom Able, Pete Barnes, Sid Mullens, Dick Guild, Dave Wells


If you have any pictures from the past, or great stories that you would like to share, please email or snail mail to us.

Email:

webmaster at f117reunion dot org

Snail Mail address:

Stealth Fighter Association

P.O. Box 151196

Fort Worth, TX  76108-1196

F-117 Organizations

 Baja Scorpions

Baja Scorpions

Emblem Significance

The Baja Scorpions patch was designed by Dick Meathrell and the late Dick Abrams.  The name Baja Scorpions was conceived by Dick Meathrell, F-117 Flight Test Administrator, very early in the F-117 Flight Test Program, the result of an assignment to Dick by Flight Test Director, Keith Beswick.  Keith had suggested an organization patch featuring a graduating senior's cap with a performance chart's jagged trend line to designate the program's code name, Senior Trend.  After enduring much derision for his suggestion, Keith assigned Dick Meathrell the task.  The F-117 Flight Test group was located in a complex at the south end of the test site.  To the rest of the personnel at the test site, they were known as the South Enders.  From this was derived Baja, the Spanish word (loosely translated) for south.  A rattlesnake came to mind when Dick was searching for a mascot.  However, this was decided against because, unlike the radar-eluding F-117, the rattlesnake provides ample warning prior to striking.  Then, one day, a scorpion was found in one of the hangars and captured.  Because scorpions strike without warning, this potentially dangerous creature turned out to be a blessing by providing a symbolic mascot.

  4450th Tactical Group

4450th Tactical Group

Emblem Significance

The 4450th's emblem is a Nighthawk in the attack position on a black background, symbolizing night operations.  The bird is white, with the bird's eye and lightning bolts embroidered in red to add color.

  37th Tactical Fighter Wing

37th Tactical Fighter Wing

Emblem Significance

A black Nighthawk in flight, poised in an attack position, refers to the Wing's ability with the F-117 Stealth Fighter to meet worldwide commitments with swiftness, strength, and sagacity.  The white highlights around the hawk suggest the aircraft's spectral nature, while the white-outlined feathers allude to the F-117's mastery over a silent approach to its intended target.  The background element, a cross of Air Force yellow, notes the 37th's heritage as the 'Defender of the Crossroads.'  The ultramarine blue border between the oriental blue areas and the arms of the yellow cross depicts the 37th's membership in the Air Force and Tactical Air Command community.  Moreover, the transition from oriental blue to ultramarine blue insinuates the Air Force's new capability to operate effectively in both day and evening skies.  The three red lightning bolts surging from the hawk's claws imply that three operational squadrons are ready to carry out the 37th's mission with strength and zeal for the Air Force.  The hawk's red eye denotes its ability to find and track its prey.

  49th Fighter Wing

49th Fighter Wing

49th Fighter Wing

The 49th Fighter Wing supports national security objectives with mission-ready F-117A stealth fighters, an Air Transportable Clinic and Bare Base assets.  The wing deploys worldwide to support peacetime and wartime contingencies, trains USAF aircrews in F-117A and T-38A and allied aircrews in F-4F Fighter Transition and Weapons Instructor Courses, and provides support to over 18,000 personnel to include German Air Force Tornado operations.

Emblem Significance

Blue and yellow are the Air Force colors.  Blue alludes to the sky, the primary theater of Air Force operations.  Yellow refers to the sun and the excellence required of  Air Force personnel.  The Light and Dark Blue colors signify the unit’s day and night defense of freedom.  The winged knight’s helmet reflects the Wing’s long and distinguished history of military engagements.  The stars represent the constellation “Southern Cross” and denote the unit’s World War II campaign credits in the South Pacific.  The Latin inscription "TUTOR ET ULTOR" translates into the meaningful motto "I PROTECT AND AVENGE", and is an ideal reflection of the wing's richly earned nickname, "The Fighting 49ers."

 F-117 System Program Office

F-117 System Program Office

 

 

ASC/YN is the Air Force office responsible for the sustainment and development of the F-117 Nighthawk.  They are located at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Dayton, Ohio.

 Lockheed Martin's Skunk Works logo

Lockheed Martin's Skunk Works logo

Skunk Works

Skunk Works is the nickname for Lockheed Martin Aeronautics' Advanced Development Projects, the birth place of the F-117. The name Skunk Works came from Al Capp's Li'l Abner comic strip, which featured the "skonk works," where Appalachian hillbillies ground up skunks, old shoes, and other foul-smelling ingredients to brew fearsome drinks and other products.  To hide its true nature, Lockheed engineers identified the secret XP-80 assembly shed - which ironically was across the street from a malodorous plastics factory - as the place where Kelly Johnson was stirring up some kind of potent brew.  The nickname stuck, although skonk became skunkin deference to the nonhillbillies working at the top-secret facility and because Capp objected to anyone else using his unique spelling.  Cartoonist Capp and his Li'l Abner comic strip departed many years ago, but the Skunk Works - a registered service mark of Lockheed Martin Corporation along with the familiar skunk logo - lives on as Lockheed Martin Aeronautics Company continues to "brew" the world's most potent aircraft.

 F-117A Field Service

F-117A Field Service

FIELD SERVICE/TRAINING HISTORY

Following successful completion of the Have Blue program in July 1979, two separate groups, a Field Service Group (FSR) and a Training Group (FT) were formed under then Logistics Director Larry Bohannan, with the FSR being assigned to Jerry Bently and the FT under the control of Cliff Hutchins. The full complement of personnel for each group was recruited and brought on board by March 1980. Both groups occupied a single office at PS-11 under the concept that FSRs would assist the FTs in research and development of the first training courses for presentation to customer operations and maintenance personnel. FSRs would also serve as the first students for practice teaching sessions.

This was a difficult task, since little was known about stealth technology, initial design was not complete so facts and details were scarce, and the first aircraft had not yet been built. Course development proceeded on schedule, and the first formal ten-week training course began in October 1980. This course was presented primarily to customer program management personnel, since the first cadre of 4450th Tactical Group (TG) maintenance personnel had not yet been program cleared.

 LADC Field Service

LADC Field Service

In January 1981, the 4450th TG began operations, and in February, the FSR and FT deployed to assist. FSRs were permanently assigned, while FTs periodically traveled to provide critical training on specific aircraft maintenance and support equipment systems. The F-117A aircraft successfully completed its first flight on Jun 18, 1981.

From January 1981 through May 1982, formal ten-week courses were conducted at PS-11 for all customer personnel assigned to the 4450th TG. In May, due to the large increase of assigned personnel, the customer determined that it would be more cost effective to assign the FT to the operational site rather than incur the cost of sending students to PS-11 for initial training. In June, all FTs and course materials were relocated to PS-66 where formal training continued. The first formal training at PS-66 began in July 82. Also, in accordance with the customer's revised training plan, military instructors were assigned to the FT and began working with ADP instructors to learn, and ultimately assume responsibility for all training.

In October 1982, the first FSRs arrived at PS-66 concurrently with the first operational F-117A aircraft (786). The majority of FSRs were permanently reassigned to PS-66, while a small cadre remained behind to support on-going flight test operations. FSRs and FTs were assigned to and occupied separate base facilities due to the vastly different purpose of their respective functions.

The FT contract ended in October 1983, and all classified course material was turned over to the Air Force training group, which then assumed full responsibility for formal training. FSR requirements were also reassessed, and some downsizing occurred. Approximately half of the instructors were reassigned as FSRs, while the other half returned to PS-11 to begin development of follow-on training courses. In November, the 4450th TG declared Initial Operational Capability (IOC).

According to customer plan, in June 1985, Air Force Engineering & Technical Services personnel (AFETS) were recruited and assigned to PS-66 for the purpose of assuming the FSR function of technical support for the operational squadrons. AFETS worked directly with FSRs to learn the aircraft systems maintenance and develop the necessary skills to adequately support the Wing.

Operation Summer Fun, the rebuilding of the PS-66 runway and taxiways, began in July 1985. This exercise required the entire Wing of F-117A aircraft and support personnel to deploy on a rotational basis. This was the first real deployment of assets and it occurred under less than ideal conditions. FSR technical support was provided around the clock at both sites for the three-month duration of the exercise.

In September 1989, the FSR was reduced in size and scope, with the AFETS beginning to assume some of the support for the squadrons. A small number of FSRs remained at PS-66 to provide technical support for critical airframe, avionics, low observable, and mission planning systems as well as direct supply liaison. The first combat use of the F-117A occurred in December 1989, Operation Just Cause. Several aircraft flew from PS-66 to attack high value targets in Panama, and then returned to home base.

The lessons of Panama dictated that the F-117A be better integrated into national war planning. To that end, the first aircraft deployment to England AFB, LA (a non-program base) was executed in June 1990. The aircraft were accompanied by airframe and avionics FSRs, all of whom were instrumental in solving the many unique problems encountered. The effectiveness of the FSRs in supporting the operational reliability of the aircraft during deployment was recognized. In response to Saddam Hussein's aggression, Operation Desert Shield began in July 1990, and in Aug, all PS-66 FSRs received orders to deploy to Saudi Arabia with the operational squadrons.

Operation Desert Storm began in January 1991, and FSRs again provided 'round the clock technical support to insure daily mission success. The war ended in February 1991, and shortly thereafter, some aircraft and personnel returned to PS-66. Operation Desert Calm was initiated to keep the peace, and a squadron of F-117As remained in country, along with assigned FSRs, who continued to provide effective support until the last aircraft returned home in February 1994.

From July 1991 through January 1992, aircraft 824 and support personnel deployed to Eglin AFB, FL to participate in a maximum Climatic Test of the aircraft. A single FSR was assigned to this project to provide full engineering and technical support for all airframe, avionics, and low observable systems.

In May 1992, F-117A operational units began a permanent move from PS-66 to Holloman AFB, NM (HAFB). This move was completed by July 1992, and PS-66 was deactivated shortly thereafter. FSRs provided continuous technical support both at PS-66 and at HAFB during and after the move. FSRs were then reassigned to HAFB following the move to provide support during the "settling in" period at the new location.

Integration of the aircraft into a white world environment coupled with a large reassignment of experienced F-117A customer personnel, and the fact that half the aircraft remained deployed, resulted in numerous unanticipated problems. Fleet readiness declined drastically. FSR support at HAFB was insufficient because half the FSRs also remained deployed in Saudi Arabia. An emergency request for additional FSR support was conveyed to the Skunk Works in June 1993. A rapid response team of FSRs was immediately deployed to HAFB, followed by a more permanent increase of FSR personnel in October 1993. These additional FSRs augmented the permanently assigned FSRs to provide enhanced technical support during the transition period.

In February 1994, the last deployed F-117A and all remaining support and FSR personnel returned to HAFB from Saudi Arabia. FSRs continued to provide enhanced support at HAFB through September 1995, when the transition period was declared over, and the augmented FSRs returned to home plant. A small cadre of FSRs remains at HAFB and continues to provide technical support for the F-117A fleet.

 

 

Sources:

49th Fighter Wing

Nighthawks, Re-Printed with permission of Patrick Allen Blazek

F-117 Site History

 F-117 Production Line

F-117 Production Line

PS-11

Located in Burbank, Ca, the Lockheed Skunk Works (PS-11) was the birthplace of the F-117 aircraft.  The gain of valuable engineering data during the Have Blue flight test program led to a Full Scale Development (FSD) decision by the Air Force. A contract was awarded to the Lockheed Skunk Works on November 16, 1978. The original order was for five FSD test aircraft and 15 production articles. The initial F-117, Aircraft 780, was delivered 28 April 1981 and subsequent production lots of varying quantities yielded a total of 64 aircraft built and delivered through June 27, 1990. As of May 2001, 51 production and 3 FSD test aircraft are still active.

Streamlined management by Aeronautical Systems Center, Wright-Patterson AFB, Ohio, in close coordination with the Skunk Works, combined breakthrough stealth technology with concurrent development and production. The result of this effort, shrouded in secrecy rivaling that of the Manhattan Project to develop the atomic bomb, was a declaration of Initial Operational Capability (IOC) after delivery of the fourteenth F-117 on October 28, 1983. Incredibly, IOC occurred in just under five years after production go-ahead, about half the time for most programs. 

The Burbank plant was closed in 1992 and all manufacturing, engineering, and testing operations were transferred to Palmdale, CA, PS-77.

PS-33

The United States Air Force, at the beginning of the F-117 program, had an acquisition command (Air Force Systems Command) and a support command (Air Force Logistics Command).  The F-117 program was begun by AFSC using a carve-out System Program Office (SPO) established within the Aeronautical Systems Center (ASC) at Wright-Patterson AFB, Ohio.  At an early date in the program’s development, AFLC was brought in by including a few individuals who worked in Detachment 6, 2762d Logistics Support Squadron (SP), under the HQ AFLC/AZ Special Projects Office, located at WPAFB, OH.  Det 6, located at Norton AFB, CA, (PS-33) provided critical logistics support for the SR-71.  Even though the SR-71 was no longer a strictly black program, Det 6 provided a handy cover for AFLC’s participation in the program, plus a pool of logistics specialists, with black program experience and the required security clearances, who were familiar with the Lockheed Skunk Works and who were located in close proximity to Lockheed’s Burbank plant.

Chuck Rieger was the senior member of Det 6 who was chosen to form and lead the cadre of AFLC participants.  This cadre was begun in late 1978 or early 1979, and included key individuals Don Wallace, Fred Grimm, Ken Kelly, and Hank Ortiz, plus others.  The Det 6 commander, Col Marcus Smith, provided military oversight for the cadre and handled protocol with AFLC and the host base.

Quite early in the program, Program Management Responsibility Transfer (PMRT) from the SPO to the Det occurred for the engine, the ejection seat, the technical publications, and most of the support equipment, along with numerous other smaller items. As the “article” developed and the program grew, AFLC’s cadre grew and was designated the Special Projects Division of Det 6.  Contracting, Finance, Administration, Item and Production Management, Technical Order Management, Supply System development, and oversight of the contractor depot operation were all accomplished within the Det.  In addition, an Air Force Audit Agency “black” auditor, responsible for all black programs in the area, was resident in the Detachment facility.  Eventually, as IOC approached, the Special Projects Division reached a strength of approximately 90 individuals, with plans to expand to over 100.

Several facets of the Detachment’s support to the program were unusual, generally caused by the level of security required.  For one, the operating base did not have Base Procurement, so all purchases necessary to outfit and, in certain cases, sustain, an operating Air Force base (PS-66) were made by the Norton AFB Base Procurement office under the auspices of the Det.  This was in addition to the depot level support provided. The Skunk Works initially furnished transportation for all material sent to the operating base, but the majority of this work transitioned to the Det in 1984 when Diablo Trucking Company was established as a secure carrier for program material.  Another area that required careful attention in the Det was monitoring “white world” developments on hardware that was also used in the F-117, especially the ejection seat.  In addition, Detachment people were instrumental in the weapons certification work.

In 1983, the Commander of AFLC announced a desire for East Coast and West Coast black depots.  McClellan AFB was chosen as the West Coast depot, and the F-117 was chosen as the first program under its cognizance.  Chuck Rieger briefed an initial group of 14 individuals from McClellan, led by Lt Col (Colonel select) Ed Moore, into the program in September 1983.  The black depot at Sacramento Air Logistics Center (SALC) was designated SM-ALC/QLA and was established on 1 October 1983.  On the same day, the Norton AFB contingent in Det 6 was activated as Detachment 51 of SM-ALC, with the Detachment commander reporting to Col Moore.  At that time, Col Moore was chief of QLA and was also the F-117 System Program Director.

This began a transitional period for the AFLC participants in the program.  Plans were soon made to move the support work to McClellan AFB (PS-88) and close the Detachment, so a gradual transfer of responsibility was begun.  As SM-ALC/QLA’s capability grew and as Detachment incumbents departed for other jobs, work was transferred to McClellan AFB employees performing temporary duty at Norton AFB.  Finally, the people and warehouse assets were moved to McClellan in June-July 1985 and the Detachment was deactivated.

PS-44

General Electric produced the F-117’s F404-GE-F1D2 engines at the company’s plant in Lynn, Massachusetts (PS-44).  Air Force engines were picked from the stream of US Navy production engines going to the F-18 program.  After movement to a secure area, some of the F1D2-unique parts were added and the engines were delivered to the Skunk Works plant in Burbank, CA, for installation in production F-117s.  The Lynn plant also produced the critical/sensitive tailpipes required for, and unique to, the F-117.  Early tailpipe modifications were performed at Lynn, but this work was later moved to Aztec, a specialty metals company on the West Coast, which was an important part of program sustainment for several years.

The Lynn plant also provided ongoing Engineering and Program Management support.  In addition to conducting periodic Engine Program Management Review (PMR) and other meetings, GE program participants kept the Air Force’s Engine Manager at PS-33, and later at PS-88, apprised of Navy developments and furnished copies of Navy service bulletins.  As the Navy accumulated experience and flying hours on this engine more rapidly than the Air Force, this was a valuable source of information about engine aging.  Kits for those Navy service bulletins chosen for Air Force adoption were purchased at a savings compared to stand-alone buys because the Navy paid for the engineering and because there was the opportunity to piggyback on Navy quantity buys.

One modification that originated with the Air Force, and was therefore engineered by the Air Force, was the Ecology Kit, an apparatus to catch and recycle waste fuel that normally was dumped overboard on engine shutdown.  The kit was needed to avoid damage to aircraft coatings caused by the dumped fuel.

Even though the PS-44 designation was later dropped, the Lynn plant has continued active participation in the program and still provides management and technical support.

PS-55

In order to support the program in its early days, GE established a depot for the engines in a commercial overhaul plant next to the Ontario, CA, airport (PS-55), once again piggybacking on the Navy F404 program.  Since the program was black, only a couple of GE employees at the depot were briefed.  Their function, once the engines were covertly delivered from PS-33, was to double check for any identifying material and remove it, if found, and to then send the engines through the line mixed in with the numerous US Navy engines going through the depot process under a Contractor Logistics Support (CLS) contract.  After the engines were completed, they were delivered back through the PS-11 or PS-33 warehouses to the appropriate program sites.

Later in the program, PS-55 was closed and the engine depot moved to the Navy depot facility in Jacksonville, Florida, where the Navy performed the work under a Depot Maintenance Inter-service Support Agreement (DMISA).  This was more cost effective than buying additional GE tooling that would duplicate the Navy tooling at Jacksonville.

4450th-tactical.png

PS-66

Beginning in 1982, the 4450th Tactical Group operated the F-117 during the first years of its existence at the Tonopah Test Range (PS-66). This covert facility in central Nevada, at the north end of the Nellis complex, enabled the concurrent development and production of the F-117 to continue far from the prying eyes of the media. By late 1989, as the F-117 was reaching maturity and was now a publicly acknowledged program, the Air Force wanted to redefine its operating command as a combat unit versus a test organization, which was the 4450th Tactical Group’s (TG) heritage. In October, 1989, the 4450th was deactivated and became the 37th Tactical Fighter Wing, which continued to operate the F-117 through its first combat employments. 

 

 

 

PS-77

road-runner.png

A depot was established in 1984 to accomplish repairs and install modifications on the aircraft.  This depot, first located in Lockheed’s Palmdale Plant 10 (PS-77), eventually took the place of Lockheed Depot Field Teams performing the depot work on site at PS-66.  Half of an existing Lockheed hangar, Building 602, was secured, and appropriate fencing was installed around it, including a taxiway gate to allow C-5s into the vicinity of the building for loading and unloading.  This enabled the concept of Compatibility Updates (CU’s) to be implemented, in which an attempt was made to create blocks of aircraft having the same or similar configurations.

The articles (F-117s) were moved to and from the depot by C-5 under the cloak of darkness, in order to maintain program security.  This meant that the aircraft had to be defueled, disassembled, cradled, and then loaded aboard the C-5, flown to the depot, and unloaded before the real work could begin.  Of course, this meant that the reverse actions had to occur at the end of the depot work before the article could be reassembled, flight-tested, and redelivered to the operating Group.

Another limitation, caused by the need for secrecy, was that the articles could not be moved around outside of Building 602 for the same reason they could not be flown to and from Palmdale.  This meant that a separate facility for fueling / defueling operations was impractical, so articles in work, and the depot building itself, smelled strongly of jet fuel.  This caused some concern for the safety of the operation.  The solution to that problem was to move the depot to Site 7 of Air Force Plant 42, adjacent to the Lockheed plant in Palmdale, as soon as possible.  The Combined Test Force (CTF) was also eventually moved to the same site.  This co-location allowed synergies and economies among the Lockheed support personnel, a situation that continues to the present time.

semper-en-obscurus-special-projects.png

PS-88

As the F-117A program gained momentum in the early 1980’s, the USAF made plans to “normalize” future support within the AF Logistics Command structure.  While being a “black” program would probably never permit a support structure parallel to that for F-15s for F-111s, Sacramento Air Logistics Center was tasked in late 1983/early 1984 to prepare to take on full logistics and management responsibility for support of the F-117A.  By fall of 1984, Sacramento item managers were sitting beside their Norton AFB Det 6 counterparts in what had become Det 51 of McClellan AFB.  Similarly, warehousing personnel began preparing to move the entire program inventory from Norton AFB to McClellan AFB.  Of course, this was all being done “in the black” by Sacramento personnel assigned to QL, a new directorate tasked with “specialized management” of tasks assigned by the ALC commander.

By early January 1985, QL had been assigned ownership of Building 250I for administrative and management offices and four bays in Building 645, a wooden WWII structure, for warehousing.  While on-the-job training continued at Det 51, other personnel remained behind in Sacramento to oversee the task of upgrading the facilities and their security provisions.  Offices were built within 250I, new furniture procured and squeezed in, and an electronically shielded TEMPEST room built for operation of the mainframe computer that would handle part tracking, shipping, and ordering projections.  Parallel facilities were built within the 645 warehouse on the other side of the base and linked with an encrypted data circuit.

By mid June 1985, all preparations were complete and a C-130 landed with all the classified technical data, files, and safes.  By the end of the day, trucks with unclassified material and equipment had arrived and were being unloaded; the first operations had begun.  Over the next several weeks, trucks continued to transfer all materiel from the Norton warehouses to McClellan – all this without overt impact to the 4450TG users at the growing Tonopah AB.

As the program grew at McClellan AFB, it was interesting to see the normal warehouse signs of aircraft logistics – tires, engines, boxes, and crates – stacked side-by-side with the unusual signs of expansion at the remote Tonopah operational site – beds, televisions, chairs, washing machines, gym equipment, toilet paper, and so forth.  As a black program, nothing was shipped direct to the final destination, especially parts, and sometimes people.

Things settled for a couple years into a relatively regular pace as QL focused on moving parts and supporting the Tonopah operations while the System Program Office (SPO) in Dayton focused on procuring airframes and system improvements.  By 1987, the end of production was in sight and a phased program was established to incrementally transfer management of mature aircraft systems to QL from SPO.  Final PMRT (Program Management Responsibility Transfer) from AF Systems Command SPO to the AF Logistics Command QL occurred on October 1, 1989 as parts for the last aircraft, 843, began to come together for delivery the following summer.

Midway through the incremental PMRT on November 10, 1988, the Government announced the existence of the Stealth Fighter with an airbrushed picture and a short, but sweet press conference.  Although it did not make much difference in QL’s normal day-to-day work, it was at least refreshing to tell one’s family what “Quiet Lips” had been working on the previous years.  (Another interpretation of QL – Quality of Life” -- was based on the fact that the offices were filled with new furniture instead of the then-typical Government steel desks and green fiberglass divider walls.)

Activity at QL picked up an order of magnitude in late summer 1990 when the Tonopah wing deployed most aircraft to Saudi Arabia for Operation Desert Shield.  Support operations were made more difficult by distance, incomplete usage data from the maintainers, and the time differences.  In a strange twist of circumstances, however, classification of stealth parts and material actually helped.  Because the F-117’s Special Access Required classified parts had to be escorted at all times, program shipments always moved to the front of the transportation line.  Large containers, especially those for engine exhaust tailpipes, were packed solid with smaller boxes of unclassified parts and vital CARE packages of magazines, games, candy, and other essentials.

In a great blow to QL, 1995 brought news that McClellan AFB had been chosen for closure by July 2001.  After a period of waiting to see if the closure order would stick, QL was courted by two of the remaining Air Logistics Centers, Ogden ALC near Salt Lake City, Utah, and Oklahoma City ALC in Oklahoma.  Their proposals were basically to move QL management and logistics operations to those bases and continue business as usual.  Also bidding for the job was Wright-Patterson AFB near Dayton, Ohio.  Dayton’s approach was different, proposing movement of management activities there and logistics and warehousing activities to Palmdale, CA, under contract to Lockheed’s Skunk Works.

By 1997, the decision was made to proceed with Wright-Patterson’s plan.  A new (to the DoD) 5-year contract with an option for three additional years was negotiated for Total System Performance Responsibility (TSPR).  Lockheed would assume most of the daily support operations, including all procurement, warehousing, and shipment of parts (engine excepted).  August 1998 brought the official transfer of SPO responsibilities back to Ohio, followed by start of the TSPR contract in October. 

By May 1999, the McClellan warehouses were empty once more, and QL was disestablished.  Former workers in QL had transferred elsewhere on base, moved with other programs to other ALC's, left or retired from Government service, and in some cases followed the program to Palmdale as new Lockheed employees.  September 2000 saw most of the last former QL “Mushrooms” at McClellan AFB retire from Government civilian service.  By that time, even the airfield control tower had closed and the entry gates were no longer manned.  The base officially closed on July 6, 2001, and is now converting over to various civilian industrial uses.  The original 645 warehouse complete has long-since been torn down to the foundations; the 250I office building stands empty and locked.

PS-99

During the initial design of the F-117 aircraft, a need arose for a trainer because it was decided that a two-seat version would not be cost affective for a fleet of 15 aircraft.  A demonstrator Trainer was constructed (called a CAB) at the Rye Canyon test facility and was used to assist in training the first group of pilots.  This concept was expanded to become the F-117 Weapon System Trainer (WST) built by Singer Link in Binghamton, NY (PS-99), and was delivered to Tactical Air Command in 1986. The purpose of the WST is to provide training that is directly transferable to the F-117 aircraft in areas of:

All phases of instrument flight training.

Pilot proficiency training.

Instrument takeoffs and landings.

Instrument Flight Rules (IFR) navigation missions.

Air-to-ground attack

Systems operation.

Dynamic integration of aircraft emergency procedures into flight situations.

There are two F-117 Weapons System Trainers, one at the Integrated Support Facility (ISF) in Binghamton, NY, and the other at Holloman AFB, NM, where it supports the 49th Fighter Wing (FW).  The WST operated by L3 Communications – Link Simulation and Training at the ISF is used for hardware-software integration during software development for periodic WST upgrades.  These upgrades coincide with the Block Cycle aircraft modifications so that the WST is kept concurrent with the aircraft and can serve as an effective training tool.  The WST operated by the 49th FW is dedicated to continuation and mission training, emergency procedures practice, instrument training including spatial disorientation awareness, and qualification training for new F-117 pilots.  The Holloman WST is flown an average of 10 hours a day and remains an essential tool for maintaining the high state of F-117 fleet readiness and combat capability.

ladc-field-service.png

Field Service

Concurrent with the establishment of the locations and support systems, the Lockheed Field Service Group was created in 1979 under the direction of Larry Bohanan. This team has demonstrated continually that the philosophy “We Care” does make a difference. Field Service team members have been a part of every deployment and exercise that the F-117 Weapons system has participated in.


Acknowledgements:

This compilation has been constructed with major inputs and comments from the following: 

Stephen Brocato
Joe Homisak
Bob McGregor
Keith Pedersen
Graham Schwinning
Vijay Sharma
Gene Spragg
Bernie Tanner
Dave Wells

Thanks to all