The F-117A Nighthawk stealth fighter was first uses operationally 21st December 1989 during the invasion of Panama and later in Operation Desert Storm. It was designed in 1982 and now uses outdated technology. This invisible to radar fighter was shot out of the skies by the Serbian Army during the Bosnia conflict. The pilot was rescued.
The F117 Nighthawk stealth fighter was born after combat experience in the Vietnam War. Increasingly sophisticated Soviet surface-to-air missiles (SAMs) were causing a large amount of losses. The American scientists used published research by Russian mathematician Pyotr Ya. Ufimtsev, and German physicist Arnold Sommerfeld to develop the stealth design of the aircraft.
The F 117A Nighthawk stealth fighter is coated by with RAM, a radar absorbent material designed to absorb the radar emissions. The F-117's shape reflects radar energy and a modified exhaust system reduces the amount of heat emitted. The first production F-117A was delivered in 1982
The F-117A Nighthawk stealth fighter is not a fighter. It is a ground attack aircraft and does not have the capability to fight air to air combat. The F-117 Nighthawk relies completely on its stealth capability to avoid SAM surface to air missile air defenses and enemy fighters. It is also deployed at night. The term "Stealth Fighter" is therefore technically wrong. It deploys laser guided bombs using infrared sensors for detection and targeting
During Operation desert Storm the F-117's attacked vital air defenses targets which then allowed conventional aircraft to strike at other ground targets in comparative safety. They were not fired upon or detected. F-117 flew 3% of the total missions, but destroyed over 43% of the total targets with no reported losses. The F-117A flew approximately 1,300 sorties and scored direct hits on 1,600 high-value targets in Iraq over 6,905 flight hours. It was also deployed in anger in Operation Allied Force in 1999, Operation Enduring Freedom in 2001 and in Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2003.
Once ground defences are destroyed the ancient B52 bombers are used as they have a higher "loiter" time and can deliver a larger bomb load. The USAF Lockheed-Martin F-117A Nighthawk ground attack stealth fighter has been replaced by the Lockheed Martin F-22 Raptor and Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II stealth multi role fighters. The United States Air Force retired the F-117 on 22 April 2008.