Lockheed F-117A Nighthawk

With its menacing demeanour and black, futuristic design, the distinctive F-117 A Nighthawk was the first operational aircraft entirely designed around stealth technology. Dubbed the “Bat Plane”, its extraordinary appearance results from the use of “faceting” – critically angled flat surfaces – to minimize its radar signature: it is also almost entirely covered by matt black radar-absorbent material.
Interestingly, the Nighthawk gains its lift from numerous whirling vortices created by these faceted surfaces: also, the blending of the flat wing undersurfaces into the fuselage turns the whole underside into a lifting surface. Its unique design provides exceptional combat capabilities and it is equipped with sophisticated navigation and attack systems – the pilot can fly without ever having to look up from the multi-function display screens in front of him.
The Nighthawk has the advantage of being air-refuelable and, despite its size and power, it is also extremely agile.
A direct decendant of Lockheed’s 1975 Have Blue stealth prototype programme, the Nighthawk’s two prototypes were difficult to fly, but proved the idea sound. In 1982 the first of 59 F-117 fighter/attack aircraft was delivered to the US Air Force. Uveiled to the public in 1988, the Nighthawk played a major role in Desert Storm, the 1991 war with Iraq.

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