Although the iconic Lockheed F-117 Nighthawk was officially retired from active service in 2008 but the U.S. Air Force is still flying the stealth aircraft at Tonopah Test Range (TTR). According to a few reports, Decade After F-117 Stealth Jets Retirement 51 Nighthawk Still Remain In Inventory.
As we have reported earlier 12 Years After Retirement F-117 Nighthawk Stealth Jets Just Flew A Mission.
Now according to latest updates, despite being “retired,” the F-117 has continued to be a staple for technology testing, and is now apparently performing the OPFOR role for Nellis AFB “Red Flag” exercises.
According to The Drive, Red Flag 20-3, hit its crescendo last week before wrapping-up on Friday, August 14th, a division (four aircraft) of F-117s were spotted intermingled with the 64th Aggressor Squadron’s F-16s, getting fuel from the ‘red air’ tanker and participating in actions downrange. Multiple similar missions are said to have occurred throughout that final week of Red Flag and satellite imagery largely confirms this.
Between Aug. 10 and 14, no less than what appears to be six F-117s appear to have been parked in the open on TTR’s northern ramp.
Usually, no more than two F-117s go about their shy business from the base. These aircraft typically spend a brief time on the ramp and park in their own hangars after their missions are completed.
Having six nighthawks consistently on the ramp during the last week of Red Flag seems very similar to the strip alert-like tactics that aggressors of the past have used at the secretive base.
More than a decade after the F-117 Nighthawk stealth attack jet’s official retirement, the Air Force still has 51 of the aircraft in its inventory and has not destroyed any of the aircraft since 2008, despite a Congressional mandate two years ago to dispose of four of them annually.
Lockheed Martin only ever built 59 F-117s, along with five pre-production YF-117s, so 51 aircraft represent the bulk of the total production run.
F-117 Nighthawk stealth attack jets remains a hot topic of discussion and speculation, especially given that some of the aircraft are still flying. There have been rumors that some of the aircraft might have returned to service secretly, flying missions in the Middle East, but there is no hard evidence to support those claims and there are also alternative explanations.