Tag Archives: Stealth Fighter

18 June 1981

Lockheed Full Scale Development YF-117A, 79-10780, in light, three-tone desert camouflage. (Lockheed Martin)
Lockheed Full Scale Development YF-117A, 79-10780, in three-tone desert camouflage. (Lockheed Martin)

18 June 1981: At 6:05 a.m., Pacific Daylight Time (1305 UTC), the first Full Scale Development Lockheed YF-117A Nighthawk, 79-10780, made its first flight at Groom Lake, Nevada with Skunk Works test pilot Harold “Hal” Farley, Jr. at the controls. The super-secret airplane was made of materials that absorbed radar waves, and built with the surfaces angled so that radar signals are deflected away from the source.

Harold "Hal" Farley, Jr., with a Lockheed F-117A Nighthawk.
Harold “Hal” Farley, Jr., with a Lockheed F-117A Nighthawk. (Lockheed Martin)

Hal Farley is a former U.S. Naval Aviator, who spent eight years testing F-14 Tomcat fighters for Grumman before going to work at Lockheed’s “Skunk Works” on the Have Blue proof-of-concept prototype and the Senior Trend F-117 program. When he retired from Lockheed, he had more that 600 flight hours in the F-117s. His call sign is “Bandit 117.”

Commonly called the “Stealth Fighter,” the Nighthawk is actually a tactical bomber. Five developmental aircraft and 59 operational F-117As were built. They were in service from 1983 until 2008, when the Lockheed F-22 Raptor was planned to assume their mission. They are mothballed and could be returned to service if needed.

A Lockheed F-117A Nighthawk takes off from Groom Lake, Nevada.
A Lockheed F-117A Nighthawk takes off from Nellis Air Force, Base, Nevada. (Lockheed Martin)

The Lockheed F-117A Nighthawk is a single-seat, twin-engine tactical bomber with swept wings and tail surfaces. It is 65 feet, 11 inches (20.091 meters) long with a wingspan of 43 feet, 4 inches (13.208 meters) and height of 12 feet, 9½ inches (3.899 meters). It has an empty weight of 29,500 pounds (13,380.9 kilograms) and a loaded weight of 52,500 pounds (23,813.6 kilograms).

The F-117 is powered by two General Electric F404-F1D2 turbofan engines which produce 10,600 pounds of thrust, each. These give it a maximum speed of 0.92 Mach (617 miles per hour, 993 kilometers per hour). The service ceiling is 45,000 feet (13,716 meters) and range is 930 nautical miles (1,070.2 miles, 1,722.4 kilometers), though inflight refueling capability gives it world-wide range.

F-117A drops GBU-28
A Lockheed F-117A Nighthawk drops a 2,000-pounds GBU-27 Paveway III laser-guided bomb. (U.S. Air Force)

The Nighthawk has no defensive armament. It can carry two 2,000 pound (907.2 kilogram) bombs in an internal bomb bay.

Scorpion One, 79-10780, is now mounted on a pylon as a “gate guard” at Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada.

Lockheed F-117A Nighthawk in flight. (U.S. Air Force)

© 2016, Bryan R. Swopes

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15 December 2006

AA-1. the first prototype Lockheed Martin F-22A Lightning II, takes off at Fort Worth, Texas, 12:44 p.m., CST, 15 December 2006. (Lockheed Martin Aeronautics Co.)
AA-1, the first prototype Lockheed Martin F-35A Lightning II, takes off at Fort Worth, Texas, 12:44 p.m., CST, 15 December 2006. (Lockheed Martin Aeronautics Co.)

15 December 2006: Lockheed Martin Chief Test Pilot Jon S. Beesely takes the first prototype F-35A Lightning II stealth strike fighter for its first test flight at Forth Worth, Texas. Taking off at 12:44 p.m., CST (18:44 UTC), Beesley took the prototype, designated AA-1, to 15,000 feet (4,572 meters) at 225 knots (259 miles per hour/417 kilometers per hour) to test the aircraft in landing configuration prior to continuing with other tests.

Beesely said that the F-35A, “. . . handled well, better than the simulator.” He compared it to the Lockheed Martin F-22 Raptor, and said that it handled like the Raptor, but better.

During the flight a minor problem occurred when two sensors disagreed. Although this was simply a calibration problem, test protocol required that Beesely bring the airplane back. He landed at Fort Worth at 1:19 p.m.

Jon S. Beesley in teh cockpit of Lockheed Martin's prototype F-35A Lightning II. (Lockheed Martin Aeronautics Company)
Jon S. Beesley in the cockpit of Lockheed Martin’s prototype F-35A Lightning II. (Lockheed Martin Aeronautics Company)

Jon S. Beesley was commissioned in the U.S. Air Force in 1972 and flew the McDonnell Douglas F-4 Phantom II. He attended the Air Force Test Pilot School and was later assigned as a project test pilot for the Lockheed F-117 Nighthawk.

After leaving the Air Force, Beesley became a test pilot for General Dynamics where he tested various configurations of the F-16 and the prototype YF-22. Through a series of mergers, General Dynamics evolved into today’s Lockheed Martin Aeronautics Company. After testing the three configurations of the Joint Strike Fighter, the F-35A, F-35B and F-35C, Jon Beesley retired in 2009.

The Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II is a “multirole” stealth fighter capable of air defense, ground attack and reconnaissance. There are three variants: The F-35A is designed for conventional takeoff and landing; the F-35B is a short takeoff/vertical landing variant and the F-35C is for use aboard aircraft carriers.

The F-35A Lightning II is a single-place, single-engine supersonic stealth aircraft. It is 51.4 feet (15.7 meters) long with a wingspan of 35 feet (10.7 meters) and overall height of 14.4 feet (4.28 meters). It has an empty weight of 29,300 pounds (13,290 kilograms) and can carry 18,000 pounds of weapons. Maximum takeoff weight is 70,000 pounds (31,800 kilograms).

The F-35 is powered by one Pratt & Whitney F135-PW-100 turbofan engine. This is an axial-flow engine with a 3-stage fan section, 6 stage compressor and 2 stage turbine section (1 high- and 1 low-pressure stage.) The engine is rated at 43,000 pounds of thrust (191.17 kilonewtons) with afterburner.It is 18 feet, 4 inches (5.500 meters) long, 3 feet, 7 inches (1.092 meters) in diameter, and weighs 3,750 pounds (1,701 kilograms).

Maximum speed of the F-35A with internal weapons is Mach 1.6+.

The F-35A is armed with a General Dynamics GAU-22/A 25mm four-barrel rotary cannon with 180 rounds of ammunition. The gun has a rate of fire of 3,300 rounds per minute. The standard weapons load consists of two AIM-120C AMRAAM air-to-air missiles and two 2,000 pound GBU-31 JDAM guided bombs carried in an internal bay.

The United States Air Force plans on buying 1,763 F-35As. The U.S. Navy will get 260 F-35Cs while the Marine Corps plans for 420 F-35Bs. Ten other counties have ordered various configurations of the lightning II.

After completing its test program of 91 flights, in 2009 F-35A AA-1 was turned over to the U.S. Navy for use as a live fire target at NAWC China Lake, California.

Lockheed Martin F-35A Lightning II, AA-1, parkied in its hangar. (Lockheed Martin Aeronautics Company)
Lockheed Martin F-35A Lightning II, AA-1, parked in its hangar. (Lockheed Martin Aeronautics Company)

© 2016, Bryan R. Swopes

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