F-117 Stealth Jets Are Taking Part In Northern Lightning 2023

F-117 Duluth


F-117 Duluth
Two F-117s over Duluth ANGB (Picture credit score: Zach P. Nipper Pictures)

Three F-117 jets have deployed to Duluth Air Nationwide Guard Base, Minnesota, to participate in Northern Lightning 2023.

Northern Lightning is one in all seven Air Nationwide Guard joint accredited workout routines held at a Fight Readiness Coaching Heart. From August 7 to August 18, 2023, Volk Subject Fight Readiness Coaching Heart, Winsconsin, is internet hosting the a lot of the 60 plane and 1,000 service members collaborating in Northern Lightning 2023, a fight readiness train that brings collectively models of the Air Drive, Nationwide Guard, Marine and Navy models from Arizona, Florida, Minnesota, Ohio and Virginia to supply a tactical degree, joint coaching surroundings.

“Northern Lightning emphasizes air interdiction and fourth- and fifth-generation fighter integration, whereas focusing particularly on unit aircrew coaching goals to organize collaborating models for each their state and federal missions,” says the Winsconsin Nationwide Guard website.

The main focus of the drills is Opposed Air Interdiction and Shut Air Help in opposition to a extremely built-in air protection system composed of related surface-to-air and air-to-air threats in a contested/degraded operational (CDO) surroundings, with Offensive/Defensive Counter Air (OCA/DCA), Suppression/Destruction of Enemy Air Protection (SEAD/DEAD), and Shut Air Help (CAS) missions flown by the participating assets.

Curiously, amongst them, there are additionally three F-117s. The “Black Jets” from Tonopah Take a look at Vary airfield should not deployed to Volk Subject ANGB however they’re working at Duluth ANGB, Minnesota, the place they’ve arrived on Aug. 4, 2023.

The F-117s are supporting the train over Winsconsin, flying every day, in pairs, utilizing their very well-known radio callsign “NIGHT”. Photograher Zach P. Nipper received a better take a look at the long-lasting jets as they returned from their Northern Lightning mission on Aug. 8, 2023.

It’s now not a secret that 15 years after being formally retired, the F-117s are being actively used not just for training purposes as adversary aircraft and cruise missile surrogate, but additionally for analysis, growth, check and analysis. We have now already reported intimately about their latest participation in train Northern Edge in Alaska, after they had been deployed to Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson together with some actually interesting testbeds.

What’s clear is that the after secretly working for a number of years after their official retirement in 2008, the stealth jets at the moment are publicly supporting all an important workout routines within the U.S. and, as we commented final time, “we don’t know the precise function the F-117s performed within the train however, in the event that they had been known as in, their considerably classic stealth capabilities had been wanted to make the situation tougher for the opposite gamers!”

Right here’s a recap of the F-117 profession from 2008 to at present as already printed in a previous article right here at The Aviationist:

Whereas formally retired in 2008, the F-117 Nighthawk have continued to fly, unofficially, from Tonopah Take a look at Vary (TTR) airfield in Nevada. As defined in a detailed story, again in 2014, after just a few movies and photographs had already appeared online, the U.S. Air Drive admitted that the Nighthawk was kept in a “Type 1000” storage at TTR which meant that the sort is needed to be maintained till known as into energetic service. Desert situations of Nevada are excellent for sustaining the stealth jets in pristine situations (because of the low degree of humidity and therefore, decrease chance of corrosion), therefore the rationale to function the enigmatic plane from TTR.

In July 2016, we published a video showing two F-117s flying collectively, filmed from the distant hills east of Tonopah Take a look at Vary, then, in 2017, the U.S. Air Drive introduced the choice to retire the fleet completely, as soon as and for all. In truth, “in accordance with the Nationwide Protection Authorization Act of 2017, handed Dec. 23, 2017 the Air Drive mentioned it will take away 4 F-117s yearly to totally divest them. Nonetheless, the plane continued to be noticed, much more than it had occurred till then, with the Nighthawks additionally deploying to a number of U.S. bases to hold out Dissimilar Air Fight Coaching with different U.S. sorts. Till 2021, when the U.S. Air Drive printed the first official images of the type nonetheless concerned in flight operations on the DVIDS (Protection Visible Data Distribution Service) community.

Then, in September 2022 the Air Drive Take a look at Heart printed a Request For Data (RFI) a few attainable 10-year contract for upkeep and logistics help providers for the F-117A fleet on the TTR airfield, acknowledging that the U.S. Air Drive is keen to keep the aircraft flying a minimum of till 2034.

It isn’t identified, what number of Nighthawks are nonetheless airworthy. As of January 2023, of the 59 F-117s constructed, roughly 45 F-117s had been  within the stock, with greater than 10 already authorised for transfer to museums. The present disposal charge is barely between two and three jets per 12 months, as a substitute of 4 per 12 months introduced in 2017.

Thanks to Zach P. Nipper Photography for permitting us to make use of his images!


David Cenciotti is a journalist based mostly in Rome, Italy. He’s the Founder and Editor of “The Aviationist”, one of many world’s most well-known and browse navy aviation blogs. Since 1996, he has written for main worldwide magazines, together with Air Forces Month-to-month, Fight Plane, and lots of others, protecting aviation, protection, battle, business, intelligence, crime and cyberwar. He has reported from the U.S., Europe, Australia and Syria, and flown a number of fight planes with totally different air forces. He’s a former 2nd Lt. of the Italian Air Drive, a personal pilot and a graduate in Laptop Engineering. He has written 5 books and contributed to many extra ones.


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