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-   -   F-117 secrecy. (https://www.pprune.org/military-aviation/453162-f-117-secrecy.html)

Al R 31st May 2011 10:06

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?

green granite 31st May 2011 10:57

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

barnstormer1968 31st May 2011 12:08

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.

Just a spotter 31st May 2011 12:22

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.


Buster Hyman 31st May 2011 12:48

I always thought they were revealed when they were superceded....:ooh:

Al R 31st May 2011 14:11

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?

muppetofthenorth 31st May 2011 14:15

I always thought they were revealed when they were superceded...:ooh:
In which case public acknowledgement of the B2 is rather interesting.

The Oberon 31st May 2011 14:18

Aurora anyone ?

Less Hair 31st May 2011 14:39

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.

What the Fug 31st May 2011 14:57

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

wub 31st May 2011 15:14

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.

Double Zero 31st May 2011 15:33

I always thought they were revealed when they were superceded.

Never mind the B-2, how about the SR-71 ?! Aurora indeed...

Jimlad1 31st May 2011 16:07

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!

EGGP 31st May 2011 16:09

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.

hoodie 31st May 2011 16:24

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. :8

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? :E

BEagle 31st May 2011 16:40

Testors' model was of the fictional 'F-19':

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...:E

I also left one inside the cockpit of a U-2 at Patrick AFB - they must have wondered about that!

Bubblewindow 31st May 2011 16:43

How long did they operate out of the UK with Lightnings acting as decoys or was this a Ballhop??


Geehovah 31st May 2011 17:08

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.

green granite 31st May 2011 17:17

I think this is the article and image I was thinking about, memories get a bit hazy sometimes at my age. :suspect:

stealth fighter | 1988 | 3280 | Flight Archive (It's a pdf download).

TacomaSailor 31st May 2011 17:37

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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