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11 Little Known Facts About The F-117 Nighthawk

Here are some incredible facts about the world's first stealth fighter jet.

1) The idea behind stealth aircraft was theorized by a Soviet mathematician, who in the 1960s found that the strength of a radar return wasn't related to the object's size, but instead related to the edge configuration of the object.


2) The US stealth project began in 1975, and the first two prototypes, code name "Have Blue", were built using T-38 jet engines, F-16 fly-by-wire systems, A-10 landing gear, and C-130 environmental systems.


3) The F-117 was made entirely of flat surfaces, because 1970s era computers didn't have enough power to calculate the radar cross-section of curved surfaces.

4) The F-117's first flight took place in 1981 - the same year the Space Shuttle flew its first orbit around earth.

5) F-117s were initially based and flown at the Tonopah Test Range, the same facility used to test fly acquired Soviet aircraft.

6) The F-117 used a quadruple-redundant fly-by-wire system to keep the inherently unstable jet airborne.

7) Because the F-117 was a secret project, F-117 pilots were assigned to fly the A-7 Corsair II for "avionics tests and evaluation of weapons systems".


8) The Navy evaluated a version of the F-117 nicknamed the "Seahawk", but determined it wasn't well-suited for aircraft carriers.

9) The F-117 holds the record for longest non-stop single-seat fighter flight, when it was flown from Holloman AFB in New Mexico to Kuwait, with aerial refueling.

10) One F-117 was lost to enemy fire. The jet was shot down over Yugoslavia in 1999. The pilot ejected and was rescued hours later.

11) 64 production F-117s were built and flown over the course of 27 years. The F-117 was retired in 2008, but it still lives on as the world's first production stealth aircraft.

Colin Cutler

Colin is a Boldmethod co-founder, pilot and graphic artist. He's been a flight instructor at the University of North Dakota, an airline pilot on the CRJ-200, and has directed development of numerous commercial and military training systems. You can reach him at

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