The F-117A Nighthawk

The F-117A Nighthawk is the world’s first operational aircraft designed to exploit low-observable stealth technology.


The F-117A Nighthawk is the world’s first operational aircraft designed to exploit low-observable stealth technology.


The unique design of the single-seat F-117A provides exceptional combat capabilities. About the size of an F-15 Eagle, the twin-engine aircraft is powered by two General Electric F404 turbofan engines and has quadruple redundant fly-by-wire flight controls. Air refuelable, it supports worldwide commitments and adds to the deterrent strength of the U.S. military forces.

The F-117A can employ a variety of weapons and is equipped with sophisticated navigation and attack systems integrated into a state-of-the-art digital avionics suite that increases mission effectiveness and reduces pilot workload. Detailed planning for missions into highly defended target areas is accomplished by an automated mission planning system developed, specifically, to take advantage of the unique capabilities of the F-117A.


The first F-117A was delivered in 1982, and the last delivery was in the summer of 1990. The F-117A production decision was made in 1978 with a contract awarded to Lockheed Advanced Development Projects, the “Skunk Works,” in Burbank, Calif. The first flight was in 1981, only 31 months after the full-scale development decision. Air Combat Command’s only F-117A unit, the 4450th Tactical Group, (now the 49th Fighter Wing, Holloman Air Force Base, New Mexico), achieved operational capability in October 1983.

Streamlined management by Aeronautical Systems Center, Wright-Patterson AFB, Ohio, combined breakthrough stealth technology with concurrent development and production to rapidly field the aircraft. The F-117A program has demonstrated that a stealth aircraft can be designed for reliability and maintainability. The aircraft maintenance statistics are comparable to other tactical fighters of similar complexity. Logistically supported by Sacramento Air Logistics Center, McClellan AFB, Calif., the F-117A is kept at the forefront of technology through a planned weapon system improvement program located at USAF Plant 42 at Palmdale, California.

General Characteristics

Primary Function: Fighter/attack

Contractor: Lockheed Aeronautical Systems Co.

Power Plant: Two General Electric F404 engines

Length: 65 feet, 11 inches (20.3 meters)

Height: 12 feet, 5 inches (3.8 meters)

Weight: 52,500 pounds (23,625 kilograms)

Wingspan: 43 feet, 4 inches (13.3 meters)

Speed: High subsonic

Range: Unlimited with air refueling

Armament: Internal weapons carriage

Unit Cost: $45 million

Crew: One

Date Deployed: 1982

Inventory: Active force, 54; ANG, 0; Reserve, 0

Point Of Contact

Air Combat Command , Public Affairs Office; 115 Thompson Street, Suite 211; Langley AFB, VA 23665; DSN 574-5014 or (804) 764-5014; e-mail:

March 1996

(pictured at the Van Nuys, California Air Show)


The Nighthawk is on display at United States Air Force Museum – Dayton, Ohio