USAF Sends Retired F-117s to California For Air Combat Training Against F-15s

USAF Sends Retired F-117s to California For Air Combat Training Against F-15s
Two F-15C Eagles and an F-117 fly in formation over the skies of Fresno, Calif. before separating to land at the Fresno Yosemite International Airport on Sept. 14, 2021. This week, two F-117 Nighthawks are participating in dissimilar air combat training missions along with F-15 pilots from the 144th Fighter Wing in Fresno, Calif. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Capt. Jason Sanchez)

The United States Air Force has confirmed the historic deployment of retired F-117 Nighthawk stealth fighter-bomber to Fresno Air National Guard Base, California, to conduct dissimilar air combat training missions against resident F-15C/Ds from the California Air National Guard’s 144th Fighter Wing in an aggressor role.

According to a recent service news release, two F-117 Nighthawks lands for the first time at the Fresno Yosemite International Airport, Sept 13, 2021.

U.S. Air Force Col. Troy Havener, 144th Fighter Wing commander, said, “We have the distinct honor of being the first Air Force unit to host them for a full week of training,” referencing the Wing’s deliberate partnership building efforts and their demonstrated operational proficiency as critical to securing the training opportunity.

Over the next few days, the 144th FW’s F-15 pilots will conduct multiple dissimilar air combat training missions with the F-117 pilots.

“This week we reap the benefits of two-plus years of careful communication and determined coordination with agencies and leaders overseeing these unique USAF assets,” said Havener. “The training against integrated forces that include the F-117 will challenge and sharpen pilots, as well as build confidence in tactics and systems needed to defend our nation.”

Lt. Col. David Allamandola, 144th FW Advanced Programs Officer said, “Our Griffin pilots, operations, and maintainers, are thrilled to be able to participate in this unique opportunity. It is a very special privilege to do open-air training missions with the F-117 Nighthawks.”

“This training offers incredible value for everyone involved and presents new challenges to test difficult tactics in a realistic environment. Not everyone gets to do this, so it’s been exciting creating the groundwork with our partners to make this a reality,” said Allamandola. “The enthusiasm is contagious. We are incredibly thankful to our guests for their tireless efforts over an extended period of time to make this a reality. It’s been fantastic to see this plan come together.”

This is the first time that F-117 Nighthawks have landed in Fresno. Their presence immediately received interest from multiple media outlets and some members of the community.

Although officially retired, many F-117s remain airworthy and are used to support limited research and training missions based on overall cost-effectiveness and their ability to offer unique capabilities.

As of January 2021, the U.S. Air Force has 48 F-117s remaining in its inventory and is disposing of approximately four aircraft each year. As airframes are disposed of, they are offered to museums through the USAF Strategic Basing program and the National Museum of the USAF.

Meanwhile, other F-117s have been busy too. A pair was recorded last night on a mission near Area 51 in Nevada, doing some test point work there, likely with the DYCOMS radar cross-section measurement facility. We have heard of these operations plenty of times before.

But in this case, one of the F-117’s lost an engine and made an emergency landing back at Tonopah Test Range airport with only one of its F404 turbofans producing power. You can listen to the recording courtesy of our friends at by clicking here.

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