TECHIE’S TAKE: The Silent Assassin in Nighthawk F-117A.

mission bound blackhawks.jpg
Mission bound Nighthawks in formation: Courtesy

I was named F-117A Nighthawk after being developed by my manufacturer Lockheed Martin. I am a modern stealth fighter aircraft, developed back in 1978 and publicly announced in 1988. I was the first operational stealth aircraft, with over 50 of my brothers procured do bombing missions by the US government. This was back then in 1990. My main mission and reason of coming to existence  was to penetrate the highly protected areas that were a big threat to security, and attack them from the air. Saddam Hussein was a menace in the Middle east. Russia too was rearing its head in open defiance, as it upped its game in warfare. I was developed to penetrate and disseminate such high value areas with precision, accuracy and cause maximum damage to enemy and remain undetected. During the Cold War, and the reign of former Iraq dictator, I was looked up to as a cost effective solution. The target areas had advanced ground missiles and defense systems that made them no-go zones for attacks. As such, I was instrument and effective during the Operation Desert Storm-Kosovo (1999); Operation Iraqi Freedom-Iraq (1991), Operation Just Cause in Panama against Gen. Noriega(1989). I am a Nighthawk and a knight during night bombing missions.

Design and Body structure


Body structure

Ground view.jpg
Ground view of the stealth plane: Courtesy.

I measure an overall length of about 20.09m in length, 3.78m in height and boast of a wingspan of 13.21m. my wing areas are approximately 913 sqf and wings sweep of 67.30 degrees. I weigh 13,380.98 kg and go up to 23813.60 when fully loaded for missions. My body and frame structure was specifically designed to ensure undetectability to radar, speed, accuracy and precision. My outer body is coated with Radar-Absorbent Material (RAM) to minimize detection by enemy radar. The RAM is made of a matrix of magnetic air particles held together by a polymer binder. My body surface and edges are optimized to direct away hostile radar signals from myself, and minimize detection. Mainly constructed using aluminum material, with the areas around the engines and exhausts made of titanium.

The wings and flight controls

Front view

Deliberate design of my wings and tails ensure perfection in flight and air dynamics. 4 elevons on both the inboard and outboard edges of the wings perform specific functions of controlling my flight during cruises, landing and maneuvering. Elevons are specific surfaces that make use of air flow to allow directional changes such as pitch, roll and yaw. The elevens make use of both traditional stabilizers and  controls. The v-shaped tail serves as a flying tail, effectively controls the yaw of the plane (vertical axis control). All these unique design fitted to ensure optimal flight control and effective maneuverability on the night missions.

The Engine

I am powered by two non-afterburner General Electric F404-GE-F1D2 turbo fans. These are attached on to the sides of the fuselage, and are housed in broad nacelles. The turbo fans are fed by a pair of air intakes on each side of the fuselage. Two grating cover each intake, and they perform an important function of preventing radar waves going down the air ducts into the turbo fans which could result to loud echoes. My engine exhaust system is uniquely designed and built, with the exhaust outlets mounted atop the wing chord, one on either side of the center-line. The engine exhausts are narrow are wide to minimize infrared signature as much as possible. Also the unique design and placement ensure the radar illumination at the back of the engine is masked. The whole exhaust system is complex, to ensure heat expansion is accommodated and controlled through an engineered cooling system at the rear of the plane, and at the same time mask infrared radiation.

Weaponry System

I am a modern day stealth bomber, and am not able to engage in air-to-air battles. I have no radar, no internal cannon and not equipped to carry air-to-air missiles for launch and self-defense. Radar would give me away to enemies and make me vulnerable for attacks. I usually carry Raytheon AGM-65 Maverick and Raytheon AGM-88 HARM air-to-surface missiles. Also, in my weapons bay, you I can be loaded with the BLU-109B low level laser guided bombs, GBU-10 and GBU-27 laser guided bombs. On special missions, I can be deployed to target areas with up to 907kg bombs for bombing raids. My development as a stealth jet fighter ensured I am fully equipped to that one purpose only: stealth approach, hit with precision and disappear with confirmed hit recorded. I was developed and equipped with forward looking infrared (FLIR) and downward looking infrared (DLIR).  The DLIR and the bore-sighted lasers that illuminate the target (a spot of up to 18 inches) form an infrared acquisition and designation system (IRADS) which in effect form the basis of my weaponry and precision during the night bombing raid missions. To ensure accuracy in targeting, I have an Inertial Navigation System (INS) that backs up the IRADS. By the integration of these two systems, I can hit a target 1m in size from an altitude of over 7,700m (25,000 ft) on a clear night with utmost precision. A weapon delivery and impact is recorded on my video recorder and internal video system for there and then hit assessment.


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The stealth plane on cruise.

I am usually manned by one fully trained, qualified and experienced pilot to ensure I score high during my missions. I cost about Ksh.12, 304,615,000.00 ($122m) hence I am a high maintenance military attack jet fighter. I can cruise at supersonic speed of 993 km/hr or 0.9 Mach. I can reach a maximum altitude of 15,850m and operational range of 917.3 km. However with air fueling, the range is unlimited.

Official Retirement from duty.

I got officially retired from active service in March 2008, and replaced with more dynamic and multi-functional F-22s and F-35 Joint Strike Fighters. I served loyally from back in the 1980s and 90s when the cold war required US to answer and maintain air superiority. I am resting at Tonopah Test Range, Nevada with my other kin, but am always serviced and ready for deployment when need arises. I am be retired, but I am not out. Meanwhile, the F-22s and F-35s are doing a good hob keeping the air spaces space, and winning air supremacy and dominance battles, against rivals.

2 Comments Add yours

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