Stripped F-117 Nighthawk Stealth Jet Listed On Government Surplus Website
Even though it is still flying, the F-117's days are finally numbered, but at least some have been set aside for potential display in museums.
Lockheed Skunk Works' F-117 Nighthawk, the first operational stealth aircraft that still flies under a veil of secrecy well over a decade after its official retirement, continues to capture the public's imagination. Finally in the twilight of its existence, the remaining F-117 force that is stored at Tonopah Test Range Airport is set for destruction over the coming decade, aside from a dozen airframes that have been earmarked to potentially end up in museums after elaborate demilitarization processes have been completed. Now, according to a listing, the bare carcass of one of the 64 F-117A and pre-production YF-117s built has been offered as surplus on the government's GSAXcess.gov website.
We were notified of the existence of the listing by a reader who saw a screenshot of it posted over on Dreamlandresort.com's forum. The website provides an impressive archive of information about Area 51, its history, and the surrounding Nevada Test and Training Range—and no, talk of aliens isn't welcome.
The listing is basically for the totally stripped fuselage of F-117A 84-0827. That aircraft was the 43rd F-117A built and first flew on April 7th, 1987.
All the sensitive and toxic radar absorbant material and radar defeating substructures have been removed, as has pretty much everything else on the Nighthawk. The listing notes that the aircraft has been "extensively cannibalized," which means picked for parts to keep other jets flying. Most importantly, it states that the plane is only available for static display, but it will take a lot of work to get it back to a presentable state. You can learn all about the intricate process of taking a mothballed F-117 and turning it into a display aircraft in this past post of ours. Suffice it to say, entire sections of the aircraft have to be fabricated from scratch so that it resembles its original form, but does not present a security risk. The listing estimates those costs will run around $300,000.
The listing goes on to give the original unit price of the F-117A—$42M—and states the Special Access Program the F-117s continue to exist under. It also gives a nod to the fact that it remains at one of the most highly secure locations in the United States—inside the layers of security at Tonopah Test Range Airport. This is the same locale that secretly hosted the F-117 force during its early operational years.
As of last Fall, 51 of the F-117s remained at Tonopah. None have been destroyed as was mandated by congress years before. A media blasting facility had to be built at Tonopah to totally strip the jets of all their secretive skin coatings before disposal or transfer. Now that this has happened, the airframes appear to be trickling out for disposal or display.
One of the jets was painstakingly demilitarized and sent for display at the Reagan Library, while another supposedly went to the National Museum of The United States Air Force. So, this appears to be another one that is up for grabs to a museum, base, or other facility that has the funds to make it happen. Whether or not it was originally one of the dozen airframes selected as candidates for display or if it became available in addition to those because it was cannibalized for parts, isn't clear.
Regardless, the listing is just another reminder that the Nighthawk's days are numbered. But considering that it has had a remarkably active career even after being retired following decades of successful service, which many would describe as 'borrowed time' as it is, it's not like the beloved and revolutionary jet is going out with a whimper. The fact that a dozen will be available to museums also takes away some of the sting.
It will be interesting to see where what's left of 84-0827 ends up, if not the scrapper's torch. We will be sure to report back if or when more information becomes available.
Author's note: Thanks "DHarrier1" for sending this our way and to the folks over at Dreamlandresort.com for spotting it in the first place.
Contact the author: Tyler@thedrive.com