F-117 Nighthawk

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The Lockheed F-117 Nighthawk is a stealth ground attack aircraft formerly operated by the United States Air Force. The F-117A's first flight was in 1981, and it achieved initial operating capability status in October 1983.[1] The F-117A was "acknowledged" and revealed to the world in November 1988.[4]

A product of the Skunk Works and a development of the Have Blue technology demonstrator, it became the first operational aircraft initially designed around stealth technology. The F-117A was widely publicized during the Persian Gulf War of 1991.

The Air Force retired the F-117 on 22 April 2008,[2] primarily due to the fielding of the F-22 Raptor[5] and the impending fielding of the F-35 Lightning II.[6]

Contents

Development

In 1964, Pyotr Ya. Ufimtsev, a Soviet/Russian mathematician, published a seminal paper, "Method of Edge Waves in the Physical Theory of Diffraction", in the Journal of the Moscow Institute for Radio Engineering, in which he showed that the strength of a radar return is related to the edge configuration of an object, not its size.[7] Ufimtsev was extending theoretical work published by the German physicist Arnold Sommerfeld.[8][9][10] Ufimtsev demonstrated that he could calculate the radar cross-section across a wing's surface and along its edge. The obvious conclusion was that even a large airplane could be made stealthy by exploiting this principle. However, the airplane's design would make it aerodynamically unstable, and the state of computer technology in the early 1960s could not provide the kinds of flight computers which allow aircraft such as the F-117, and B-2 Spirit to stay airborne. However, by the 1970s, when a Lockheed analyst reviewing foreign literature found Ufimtsev's paper, computers and software had advanced significantly, and the stage was set for the development of a stealthy airplane.[11]

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