The Lockheed F-117A was developed in response to an Air Force request for an aircraft capable of attacking high value targets without being detected by enemy radar. By the 1970s, new materials and techniques allowed engineers to design an aircraft with radar-evading or "stealth" qualities. The result was the F-117A, the world's first operational stealth aircraft.
The first F-117A flew on June 18, 1981, and the first F-117A unit, the 4450th Tactical Group (renamed the 37th Tactical Fighter Wing in October 1989), achieved initial operating capability in October 1983. The F-117A first saw combat during Operation Just Cause on Dec. 19, 1989, when two F-117As from the 37th TFW attacked military targets in Panama.
The F-117A again went into action during Operation Desert Shield/Storm in 1990-1991 when the 415th and the 416th squadrons of the 37th TFW moved to a base in Saudi Arabia. During Operation Desert Storm, the F-117As flew 1,271 sorties, achieving an 80 percent mission success rate, and suffered no losses or battle damage. A total of 59 F-117As were built between 1981 and 1990. In 1989 the F-117A was awarded the Collier Trophy, one of the most prized aeronautical awards in the world.
The aircraft on display is the second F-117A built and was specially modified for systems testing. The Air Force retired it to the museum in 1991 after its test program was completed. It is marked as it appeared during tests conducted for the Air Force Systems Command between 1981 and 1991.
TECHNICAL NOTES: Armament: Up to 5,000 lbs. of assorted internal stores Engines: Two General Electric F404-F1D2 engines of 10,600 lbs. thrust each Crew: One Maximum cruise speed: 684 mph Range: Unlimited with aerial refueling Ceiling: 45,000 ft. Span: 43 ft. 4 in. Length: 65 ft. 11 in. Height: 12 ft. 5 in. Weight: 52,500 lbs. maximum