F-117 Fighter Jet Retired at Wright Patterson

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The world’s first stealth series of aircraft was retired today in ceremonies at Wright Patterson Air Force Base near Dayton. Supporters say Lockheed’s F-117 Nighthawk proved its capabilities in almost 30 years of service.

59 of the black angular, delta-winged fighter jets were built between 1980 and 1990. General Bruce Carlson, a former stealth pilot, says the Nighthawk was developed to evade radar detection at low altitude.

“It was the first generation of stealth technology in the world that was developed by men with slide rules and pencils and without the aid of computer aided models,” Carlson says.

It was not completely invisible to radar. But it was so sophisticated and so successful, Carlson says, that it rendered the Soviet Union’s billion dollar Integrated air defense system obsolete.

The fighter lived up to expectations during the first Gulf War, Carlson says. While it only flew 2 percent of the missions, it hit 40 percent of the war’s strategic targets.

“So the airplane has come of age, and now will go home where it first flew back in June of 1981,” Carlson says.

The planes will go into storage at Holloman Air Force Base in New Mexico. Their retirement frees up money that will help the Air Force modernize its fleet.

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