F-117A stealth fighter joins Hill Aerospace Museum

Hill Aerospace Museum in Utah took delivery of a retired US Air Force (USAF) Lockheed F-117A Nighthawk stealth fighter on August 5.

The aircraft - serial 82-0799 (c/n A4024) nicknamed ‘Midnight Rider’ - was transported by road from the Tonopah Test Range in the Nevada desert, where it had been kept in flyable storage. This particular F-117 first flew in 1983 and completed a total of 54 combat sorties during Operations Desert Storm, Allied Force and Iraqi Freedom. This airframe was also the Initial Operating Capability airframe for the 4450th Tactical Group. It was latterly flown by the 49th Fighter Wing/9th Fighter Squadron at Holloman Air Force Base, New Mexico, before being retired along with the rest of the F-117 fleet in 2008.

F-117 [USAF/Todd Cromar]
Hill Aerospace Museum personnel move the stripped fuselage of newly arrived F-117A - serial 82-0799 - into a museum hangar on August 5 after its arrival by road from Tonopah. USAF/Todd Cromar

As part of the very complicated demilitarisation process, all of the aircraft’s black stealth coating of radar absorbent material has been removed and it arrived at Hill stripped back to bare metal. Over the next 12-18 months it will be restored to its original appearance. In the interim it will be on public display so that visitors to the museum can see the restoration as it progresses.

Although the type was never based at Hill, the base does have a connection with it, as the resident Ogden Air Logistics Center assumed responsibility for F-117 battle damage repair in December 1998. It was tasked with going downrange to repair the F-117 in theatre when required.

As previously reported, despite the official retirement of the type, a small number have continued to fly from Tonopah. Only a handful are currently preserved, but the USAF plans to turn over around a dozen more to museums for display.