F-117 flying more often as Aggressors

More and more as of late, some of the F-117 Nighthawks long retired from active duty are now enjoying their secretive second life as developmental and red air aggressor platforms. The Air Force Test Center pilots that fly the Air Force Materiel Command-owned jets out of the shadowy Tonopah Test Range Airport (TTR) have been steadily expanding their operations in recent months with the type operating from other installations, refueling from standard tankers, and even frequenting Nellis AFB, home of the USAF’s aggressors. We have reported extensively on this unique role for the F-117s, including their first known appearance at the giant Red Flag air warfare exercises last August. Now we have new images that show “Black Jets” in action, roaring low over the Nevada desert during a Red Flag sortie.

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As for the F-117s, part of their duties includes serving as low-observable aggressors, which has become a necessity in a world where stealthy aircraft and cruise missiles are proliferating. They also work in a developmental role for low-observable and counter-low observable technologies. For Red Flag, they are part of the bad guys’ team. While flying missions during broad daylight may not have been on the docket during their operational career, these jets provide a target unlike anything fleet aircrews have encountered before. One can imagine how their elusive radar signature can only become harder to detect while flying amongst the ground clutter.

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Also of note, the F-117s have their retractable antennas extended, which does impact their low-observable cloak from certain angles. This could be a necessity for taking part in the exercise or it could be because the aircraft are leaving the training area and can communicate more freely as they are no longer valid targets. It’s also worth noting that radar reflectors are not mounted on the aircraft, so they are in a low-observable configuration.

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Source: F-117 Aggressors Photographed Low Over The Nevada Desert During Red Flag War Games

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