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F-117A spotted flying over Nevada: CONFIRMED

aero-engineer

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There are reports, a photo and a video all surfacing on the internet of an F-117A flying on two different days within the past two weeks over Nevada.

Could be a hoax.

???
 

quellish

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aero-engineer said:
There are reports, a photo and a video all surfacing on the internet of an F-117A flying on two different days within the past two weeks over Nevada.

Could be a hoax.
There might even be more than one.
 

krislhull

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http://www.abovetopsecret.com/forum/thread618907/pg1

I have not yet seen the video, but it is linked there...

Interesting to see these guys back in the air after being retired for a few years.

Kris
 
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Ian33

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Just so you all know - the video download plays in Irfranview picture viewer if you have the .flv add on.

Very neat video with some puzzling bits in it. At on stage it looks like the F-117 is in tight formation to the underside of the radar test airframe.??!! May be an optical illusion but damn awesome all in all.

I love the F-117 and would love to see it come back into active service - even as a UCAV :)
 

blackstar

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This isn't all that surprising, and does not necessarily indicate that it will return to service. They undoubtedly need to test the ability of new radars to see stealthy aircraft. What are the options? The B-2 and F-22 are stealthy, but they are also operational, meaning that they're needed to perform their roles. The retirement of the F-117 means that these aircraft can now be flown in support of engineering and experimental projects without taking an aircraft out of operational service.
 

Stargazer2006

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I had to check what Lincoln Labs' N105TB (the radar aircraft) was, and it's quite an interesting sight, a Gulfstream II with pylons underneath the wings!



N105TB (cn 31) Operated by the US Air Force Material Command. What an odd but interesting sight, I had to really adjust my eyes when I saw this Gultstream on final. How often do you see a Gulftstream with weapons pylons below the wings? N105TB has been known for flying in & out of Area 51. There is a picture of it on the net in formation with a Mig-29.
Source: http://www.airliners.net/photo/Untitled-%28USA--/Grumman-G-1159-Gulfstream/0881763/&sid=eb22028accb3334da4c74c6d4285410f
 

blackstar

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Stargazer2006 said:
I had to check what Lincoln Labs' N105TB (the radar aircraft) was, and it's quite an interesting sight, a Gulfstream II with pylons underneath the wings!
The caption says "weapons pylons," but they could just as easily be intended for radar jammers or sensor pods.
 

quellish

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blackstar said:
The caption says "weapons pylons," but they could just as easily be intended for radar jammers or sensor pods.
That's correct, typically they hang sensor pods on there - usually optical but not always. Sometimes these are new US sensors, sometimes threat sensors or their analogues. For example, they regularly fly with a pod that contains an instrumented AIM-9M seeker. There are a few good resources out there tracking what this aircraft is doing, there are plenty of photos out there showing some of the unusual things that get hung on those pylons.

"The capabilities of modern air-defense missile systems have been severely challenged by the advent of low-observable vehicles and modern electronic countermeasures. The Airborne Seeker Test Bed (ASTB) is an instrumentation platform developed by Lincoln Laboratory to investigate these challenges and identify appropriate seeker architectures and signal processing algorithms for dealing with them. The ASTB is based in a Gulfstream II aircraft and provides high-fidelity RF and IR reference instrumentation sensors that are used in parallel with special-purpose wing-pod payloads carrying production seekers or sensors under test. The combination of the system under test with the instrumentation sensors yields insight into the performance of sensor systems and advanced signal processing algorithms." (ASTB is N105TB)

Monitoring some of these special test platforms often leads to interesting places. For example, the Denmar NT-43 has been operating out of TTR for some time, and in the past few months has been seen in proximity with RQ-170s. NT-43 is used for in flight radar cross section measurement, a role formerly performed by the AIRSAR A-3. Denmar is Denys Overholser's company.
 

blackstar

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quellish said:
For example, the Denmar NT-43 has been operating out of TTR for some time, and in the past few months has been seen in proximity with RQ-170s.
Plural? The only RQ-170 that has been photographed has been in Afghanistan, right?
 

quellish

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blackstar said:
quellish said:
For example, the Denmar NT-43 has been operating out of TTR for some time, and in the past few months has been seen in proximity with RQ-170s.
Plural? The only RQ-170 that has been photographed has been in Afghanistan, right?
It was on multiple occasions, and was most likely different RQ-170s. Not more than 1 RQ-170 at a time. For a while during the winter you could see them predictably, early in the morning and at twilight. On one occasion a RQ-170 was seen in afternoon daylight near Pahute Mesa.
 

quellish

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Sigh.

http://www.google.com/search?q=F-117%20Post%20Retirement&ie=utf-8&oe=utf-8
 

mkellytx

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blackstar said:
This isn't all that surprising, and does not necessarily indicate that it will return to service. They undoubtedly need to test the ability of new radars to see stealthy aircraft. What are the options? The B-2 and F-22 are stealthy, but they are also operational, meaning that they're needed to perform their roles. The retirement of the F-117 means that these aircraft can now be flown in support of engineering and experimental projects without taking an aircraft out of operational service.
It's good to see the birds flying again (if in fact they are). When they retired, there were potential uses for them and that's why a number weren't scrapped. One of those reasons is likely the why they're flying again...If you love the plane you probably don't want to know at least one of the uses.
 

Jeb

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That's interesting, I was under the impression that they'd all been scrapped.
 

Steve Pace

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Jeb said:
That's interesting, I was under the impression that they'd all been scrapped.
They were placed into flyable storage at Tonapah to the best of my knowledge. -SP
 

blackstar

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Jeb said:
That's interesting, I was under the impression that they'd all been scrapped.
They never would have scrapped all of them. One is on display at Blackbird Park in Palmdale. But they certainly would have kept a few of them for eventual donation to museums. And you can imagine engineering value to them as well. For instance, it might be worthwhile to shoot some holes in them, put them up on the pole, and see how that affects their stealthiness (something that I'm sure they did for at least sections of the aircraft because that's pretty obvious). It wouldn't surprise me if they put at least a dozen of them into storage for engineering use or future donation to museums.
 

blackstar

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XB-70 Guy said:
Jeb said:
That's interesting, I was under the impression that they'd all been scrapped.
They were placed into flyable storage at Tonapah to the best of my knowledge. -SP
Not all. There's pictures of at least one of them being scrapped, cut up by one of those cutter arms like a backhoe, outside of a hangar. It's depressing.
 

AeroFranz

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Maybe they kept a couple in flyable condition to serve as testbeds for stealthy technologies (antennas, sensors, etc.)?
 

quellish

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AeroFranz said:
Maybe they kept a couple in flyable condition to serve as testbeds for stealthy technologies (antennas, sensors, etc.)?
I'm surprised how much attention this is getting.
Prior to retirement the F-117 fleet went through a series of upgrades intended to "future proof" them. JDAM capability, updates to the mission planning software (which had dependancies that were no longer on the DoD supported list), etc. This helped ensure that the fleet could be dusted off at any time in the next few years, though the number of qualified F-117 pilots has surely dwindled.
One aircraft was scrapped as an experiment. F-117s contain toxic substances and sensitive technology, scrapping one carries with it both environmental and security concerns. As most saw from the released images, the aircraft, once stripped, needed to be shredded like a piece of paper to meet the intended security requirements.
Several of the pre-production airframes were donated to museams, with one (784) being scrapped.
783 is at Blackbird Air Park
782 is at Holloman
780 is at Nellis
781 is at USAF Museum
These were all Baja Scorpions test airframes.

To the best of the public's knowledge, the remaining airframes are in storage at TTR. 10 were retired to TTR in 07, an additional 12 were retired to TTR in the first half of 08. The remaining airframes were to be retired later in 08, but the process ran ahead of schedule. The last F-117s left Palmdale for TTR in August of 08.
Funding for the F-117 has continued primarily through PE 0207141F. Lockheed has a contract to maintain and store the F-117 fleet in a secure environment at TTR, I believe I had posted information on the contract in another thread but cannot find it.

Several airframes "may" have been migrated to another location several months ago to support a series of classified test activities. There are volumes of data on the F-117's performance and signature in many different settings, making it an ideal test platform for certain things. The activity that people are currently seeing is likely using the F-117 as a target for the sensors on N105TB (and other special test aircraft) in support of another program (such as, oh, I don't know, the F-35 progam).


If you wanted to test a new missile seeker against a LO target, this might be how you would do it.
If you wanted to test a new RAM material against a known seeker (such as AIM-9, Amraamski, etc) this might be how you do it.
If your newfangled salt resistant RAM coating needed in flight testing and imaging, but your production aircraft isn't flying yet.... well...


As far as making the F-117s UCAVs, that would be pretty difficult. It does not have the right apertures, and adding them (to the F-117) would be about as difficult as creating a new VLO UAV.
 

bigvlada

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Just a small addition - f-117 parts (well, at least the big ones) are also in Aircraft museum near Nikola Tesla Airport and in museum of military history, located in Belgrade's Kalemegdan Fortress.
 

AeroFranz

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Quellish, thanks for the comprehensive post. ;)
 
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sublight

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Hey, there is one in China.... :)
http://geimint.blogspot.com/2010/10/image-of-week-luoyang-nighthawk.html
 
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sublight

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But you forgot to mention the interesting "where" parts....

"Luoyang is home to the Luoyang Electro-Optical Technology Development Center, who is responsible for developing the current air-to-air missiles fielded by the Chinese military. A facility such as this would certainly be able to make use of an accurate model of a VLO aircraft for missile seeker evaluation, particularly in the case of seekers for active radar homing weapons like the current PL-12."
 

blackstar

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http://www.patricksaviation.com/photos/HiTop/24701/
 

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Ian33

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Damn that Chinese copy is a bit tasty.

As for the find of the F-117s in storage, that wins two internetz!
 

quellish

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Ian33 said:
Damn that Chinese copy is a bit tasty.

As for the find of the F-117s in storage, that wins two internetz!
http://www.secretprojects.co.uk/forum/index.php/topic,2952.msg74023.html?highlight,f-117+storage.html#msg74023

Maybe these threads should be merged, as this thread is becoming less and less about Nevada.
 

OM

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Jeb said:
That's interesting, I was under the impression that they'd all been scrapped.
...It would have made AbZero sense to scrap all of them. Besides the testbed usage, there will no doubt come a time when a stealth strike will be required. Especially if we need to take out an IRBM/ICBM site without having to simply launch a cruise missile with a nuke tip.

...One other thing to keep in mind: the Nighthawk was a unique aircraft. So was the Blackbird, and those were "retired" as well.
 

quellish

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OM said:
...It would have made AbZero sense to scrap all of them. Besides the testbed usage, there will no doubt come a time when a stealth strike will be required. Especially if we need to take out an IRBM/ICBM site without having to simply launch a cruise missile with a nuke tip.

...One other thing to keep in mind: the Nighthawk was a unique aircraft. So was the Blackbird, and those were "retired" as well.
Just because something makes zero sense does not mean it does not happen.
There are other, current platforms that are perfectly capable of penetrating surgical strike missions once handled by the F-117. There are also new capabilities that would obsolete a platform like the F-117 for that particular mission. To keep the F-117 fleet ready to perform a strike mission is VERY different than keeping them in flyable storage. The infrastructure required to generate an F-117 strike sortie against an adversary does not exist right now, and would take time and effort to rebuild. Personnel would be one of many problems that would need solving.
 

OM

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quellish said:
OM said:
...It would have made AbZero sense to scrap all of them. Besides the testbed usage, there will no doubt come a time when a stealth strike will be required. Especially if we need to take out an IRBM/ICBM site without having to simply launch a cruise missile with a nuke tip.

...One other thing to keep in mind: the Nighthawk was a unique aircraft. So was the Blackbird, and those were "retired" as well.
Just because something makes zero sense does not mean it does not happen.
...Agreed. However, if this winds up *not* being a fake, what would be the most rational, logical reason/excuse for putting at least one Nighthawk back into service?
 

gtg947h

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OM said:
quellish said:
OM said:
...It would have made AbZero sense to scrap all of them. Besides the testbed usage, there will no doubt come a time when a stealth strike will be required. Especially if we need to take out an IRBM/ICBM site without having to simply launch a cruise missile with a nuke tip.

...One other thing to keep in mind: the Nighthawk was a unique aircraft. So was the Blackbird, and those were "retired" as well.
Just because something makes zero sense does not mean it does not happen.
...Agreed. However, if this winds up *not* being a fake, what would be the most rational, logical reason/excuse for putting at least one Nighthawk back into service?
I can think of a couple that might work:
Representative LO test "target" for new sensors and such
UCAV conversion testbed
LO repair and damage tolerance tests
 

Skyraider3D

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I have clearly been living under a rock, I wasn't even aware they were retired! :-[

What website(s) you guys recommend to get regular aviation news from around the world?
 

Spongthrush

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This is not a hoax/wind-up but I can understand those who want 'proof'.

It was a little surprising to see a F-117A nestling under a KC-10 never mind watch it do racetrack patterns for a couple of hours!
 

quellish

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The schedules for some of the unique capabilities on the Nevada ranges are being cleared to work with the F-35 program, it now appears likely that the F-117 flights with special mission aircraft were in support of that.
 

overscan

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Skyraider3D said:
I have clearly been living under a rock, I wasn't even aware they were retired! :-[

What website(s) you guys recommend to get regular aviation news from around the world?
http://www.flightglobal.com
http://www.alert5.com
 

Stargazer2006

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And for test aircraft:

http://www.thenorthspin.com/
 
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