Pending retirement, the attack F-117s fly at a rarely-seen altitude

The legendary US Air Force F-117 Nighthawk stealth attack continues to attract attention. Although long forgotten as a potential response to a threat, the F-117 has once again caught the eye of combat aviation enthusiasts.

In rare footage captured just days ago, the F-117 flies at an altitude few people have had the good fortune to see. On the Sidewinder route at the R2508 Range Complex in California, not every fighter, be it the state-of-the-art F-22 or F-35, allows itself the “arbitrary” of the F-117.

The video was shot by aerial photographer @stinkjet. The photographer says the “golden shots” were taken on April 21. His presence in this part of the canyon is completely understandable. As an aircraft photographer, this route is something of a must for any fighter jet. Chances are, if you are there, you will witness tests of various military air platforms. But the chance of seeing an F-117 flying at a low altitude is in the single digits.

What is visible?

The two beautiful “birds” are very clearly visible through @stinkjet’s camera lens. The pilots of the two F-117s are aware of the presence of photographers and seem to be trying their best to get the best shots for the photographers.

Pending retirement, the attack F-117s fly at a rarely-seen altitude
Images Courtesy of Aviation Photographer @stinkjet on Instagram

Of course, we think so, but in fact, these are pre-planned maneuvers. The video does not show any changes to the coating or characteristics of the aircraft. As far as possible. And if the first F-117 is just flying over at a decently low altitude, then its presence is a prelude to what’s to come.

The second F-117 comes right after it, but unlike the first, it flies so low that you feel like it’s going to touch the tree branches. It seems that both F-117s have conspired to please the gathered photographers, whose clicking with their cameras is more than symbolic.

The ban

Low flights on this route are actually prohibited. There is reason to believe that they are dangerous. This reason appeared a few years ago when an F-18 Super Hornet crashed.

But the area is famous. There are even tourist civilian flights. Yes, at a different height, but it’s not the height that attracts tourists, it’s Star Wars. Quite a few military planes were blown up here when the infamous George Lucas series was filmed.

The Serbs did hit two US F-117s, one of the pilots confirmed
Photo credit: Wikipedia

Low flights were actually allowed. There are photos, mostly of the F-22 flying very low and allowing amateur or professional photographers to capture their “golden shots”. However, 2019 and the crash of the Hornet made the military change its mind and impose a ban that does not allow military aircraft to use the route at low altitudes.

Why did the two F-117s fly?

Although this air platform is set for retirement, the F-117 is a valuable research and development asset for the US military. reported in November 2021 a strange flying F-22 Raptor. The strange thing about it was that the plane was covered with a carefully placed metal coating similar to tiles, precisely applied so as not to interfere with the key access points of the air jet, fighter sensors, critical areas, and antenna areas. We even published a photo that was provided to us by a photographer in the area of the route.

Unknown: F-22 Raptor covered with a mosaic of reflective material
Photo credit: Santos Caceres

The F-117, say many eyewitnesses in recent years, has been spotted with just such a coating. This means that the F-117 is being used as a test form of the current and future stealth aircraft of the US Air Force. And this is also confirmed by The War Zone. The American online portal says that the F-117 is being used to test various sensors. If a plane needs to test ground sensors, that’s the other reason the F-117 was spotted flying at low altitudes days ago.

“The Air Force has publicly acknowledged the use of several Nighthawks for various research and development, test and evaluation, and training purposes,” The War Zone wrote.

The Fate of the F-117

The F-117 is in the process of being retired. These war machines are waiting to be officially withdrawn from the inventory of the US Air Force. They paved the way for modern stealth and did their job, some say.

But is it so. At least a few F-117s are reported to remain in service for at least another decade. Until 2034. The flights of these two aircraft, as well as the testing of various sensors for the future of the US stealth fighter, prove that the F-117, or what remains of them, will benefit the technological development. But the F-117s will not be used in combat, training, exercises, or covert missions. Their service ends and they are turned into test devices or museum exhibits.

We’ll remember the F-117 with…

Photo credit: Reddit

We will remember the F-117 with the night raids in the bombing of Belgrade during the war in the former Yugoslavia. They had many successful missions, but the world seems to remember them for one of their failures.

In 1999, the anti-aircraft forces of Yugoslavia shot down the “infamous stealth” F-117. The story is impressive and intriguing. After the war, the two “adversaries”, the American pilot and the Yugoslav commander of the S-125 Neva anti-aircraft missile system, became friends. They exchange guest appearances, and their meeting is not only documented but symbolizes the idea that there are no enemies in the world, there are different interests.

Read the full story here – when and how the incident happens, all the action in minutes, the aftermath, and the story of the friendship of two soldiers from two different worlds.


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