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F-117 secrecy.

Old 31st May 2011, 11:06
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F-117 secrecy.

Why was the F-117 made public knowledge when it was?

Was it pretty much an open secret anyway? Did the USSR know about it (I imagine that it did?), was the news about to come out or was it announced to turn the screw and add a little more 'break the bank' Glasnost pressure?
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Old 31st May 2011, 11:57
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It was outed by someone publishing an extremely grainy picture of it, and after a bit of pressure the DOD admitted it existed and issued a picture or two.

It was allegedly based in area 52 at the Tonopath test facility 37 47' 52"N 116 46' 41"W
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Old 31st May 2011, 13:08
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Al R.
I guess many people must have known of its existence.
There were fairly accurate plastic model kits available to buy from the mid to late '70's.
I also have an encyclopedia from 1982 that states that part of the break in the 'century series' numbering was to go on a stealth aircraft.
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Old 31st May 2011, 13:22
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Possibly for propaganda reasons.

The same potential cause of it being designated as a thoroughbred fighter with an F- designation rather than a more accurate A- for ground attack.

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Old 31st May 2011, 13:48
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I always thought they were revealed when they were superceded....
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Old 31st May 2011, 15:11
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Thanks, I wondered if it had been outed rather than discovered. It must have been known about if you could buy models, let alone have anyone wonder what was in those sheds, but I guess the other side had as much to gain by keeping it quiet, as did the US. I thought it may have been released at that time as a sort of coup de grace.. something to make the Soviets realise that they could never hope to catch the US up and that resistance (financial at least) was futile.

I noticed too, that some of the crashes (pro rata, more than you might expect?) were caused by spatial disorientation - the result of limited visibility from the seat?
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Old 31st May 2011, 15:15
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I always thought they were revealed when they were superceded...
In which case public acknowledgement of the B2 is rather interesting.
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Old 31st May 2011, 15:18
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Aurora anyone ?
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Old 31st May 2011, 15:39
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Part of the whole stealth concept was to let the other guy know enough about your aircraft. Only that knowledge created the shock to make them upgrade their global radar network from the Far East to central Europe, effectively ruining them and letting their system collapse. The finish line of the arms race if you want. Won by a few dozen F-16 in black plastic coating. Good RoI.
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Old 31st May 2011, 15:57
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Less Hair

Ditto Bob Ballard finding the Titanic, one of the reasons behind it was to let the Russians know how far down the US navy could go.

A Subtle hint that they had visited some of the Subs the Russians had lost
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Old 31st May 2011, 16:14
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My understanding is that it was revealed because they wanted to fly them during the day. Up till it was made public it had only been operated at night and as a result there had been losses.
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Old 31st May 2011, 16:33
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I always thought they were revealed when they were superceded.

Never mind the B-2, how about the SR-71 ?! Aurora indeed...
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Old 31st May 2011, 17:07
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On the subject of Titanic, I believe Bob Ballards team used the dive as a fairly open excuse to do some actual work on some other more recent wrecks in the region - cant remember if they were US or Soviet though. The entire expedition was a convenient front!
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Old 31st May 2011, 17:09
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Although there were plastic model kits available they didn't look like the hopeless diamond shape of the F117; as a member of joe public I was amazed by the first photos when they came out in the 80's.
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Old 31st May 2011, 17:24
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I believe that wub has the reason - the USAF wanted to fly it during the day, hence release of a photo.

The photo was a carefully ambiguous image released by the Pentagon in November 1988. after the Presidential elections, and which suggested that the jet was short and fat. That's the image green granite is referring to, I'm sure - this one:

Prior to that there had been NO public domain images of the aircraft, and any artists' impressions and plastic kits had the shape entirely wrong. None had facets, for a start - the best known "Stealth Fighter" shape of the time was a plastic kit from Testors, which was curvacious, with inward canted twin fins and canards.

If any previous pictures had existed then in the public domain, they'd be available now on the Internet (e.g. on this site), but they don't - QED.

Sure, there had been rumours for years (carefully leaked to bug the Sovs?) that such a thing existed, but what it actually looked like was anybody's guess.

It wasn't until several months after the Pentagon image was released that Aviation Week published the first clear pictures of the jet in the circuit at Tonopah Test Range (TTR) during the day, and not until Spring 1990 before the USAF released official pictures and publicly displayed a couple at Nellis.

It's interesting to note that, according to Steve Davies' excellent book "Red Eagles" about the only recently admitted-to MiGs operating at TTR during the day at the same time as the unacknowledged F-117s were flying at night, the MiG pilots were officially unaware of what exactly it was operating from the other hangars on the base.

The first F-117 flew in 1981 (after the smaller proof of concept 'Have Blue' which first flew in 1977), and the non-trials aircraft moved to TTR by 1983, so flying an semi-operational unit of 10s of aircraft for 5+ years without anybody publicly knowing what the thing actually looked like was quite an achievement.

It's still a mysterious aircraft. Officially all retired in 2008 (and most stored in their original TTR hangars), video of an airworthy F-117 over Nevada was taken in October last year...

PS Surely everybody knows that Aurora was replaced by Blackstar?

Last edited by hoodie; 31st May 2011 at 17:35.
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Old 31st May 2011, 17:40
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Testors' model was of the fictional 'F-19':

Model by Dan Lee

Before the F-117 was unveiled, I made a number of 'zaps' based on a picture of the 'Lockheed F-19', allegedly of the '???th TFW, Tonopah AFB' which I used to leave lying around in the USA - or stuck firmly under the perspex in various Base Ops planning rooms...

I also left one inside the cockpit of a U-2 at Patrick AFB - they must have wondered about that!
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Old 31st May 2011, 17:43
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How long did they operate out of the UK with Lightnings acting as decoys or was this a Ballhop??

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Old 31st May 2011, 18:08
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There comes a time when only flying at night to maintain secrecy doesn't give you the best capability. Keeping a weapons system secret costs a disproportionate amount of $$. The facilities that the F117 Force used are now discussed openly on the internet. F117 was an amazing platform and the UK was privileged to have been involved. ..............But even F117 pilots needed a life. We could never have achieved the same programme in UK; the guys who ran it have my entire admiration.
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Old 31st May 2011, 18:17
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I think this is the article and image I was thinking about, memories get a bit hazy sometimes at my age.

stealth fighter | 1988 | 3280 | Flight Archive (It's a pdf download).
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Old 31st May 2011, 18:37
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B-2 flying low and slow in 1996

In summer 1996 several B-2s were seen flying low and slow around Puget Sound (Boeing/McChord AFB). I have rather detailed pictures I took of them from my boat. They were eerie looking but not unknown.

The local aerospace reporters did extensive stories about them that summer.

I thought they were public knowledge at that time - three years before their first combat use.
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