Tag Archives: Gulf War

Warbirds – F-117A Night Hawk

Today’s Warbirds article is on a decidedly ugly aircraft – the Lockheed Martin F-117A Night Hawk.  Pilots and aviation enthusiasts know the aircraft as “Nighthawk”, “woblin’ goblin”, or just plain “goblin”.  Arab troops nicknamed the aircraft “Shabah” (ghost) during the Gulf War.

Developed at the infamous Skunk Works, the F-117 ushered in a new era in “stealth” aviation with her first flight on June 18, 1981.  The goal was to create a single-seat, ground-attack aircraft with the ability to evade radar through use of innovative shapes and materials versus active jamming.  Rapid delivery beginning in 1982 led to operational capability by October 1983.  The Air Force denied the existence of the aircraft until a grainy photo surfaced in 1988.  The public debut finally occurred in 1990 when 2 were flown to Nellis Air Force Base in Nevada and placed on display for a crowd of tens of thousands.

The combat history of the F-117A begins in December 1989 with strikes by two Nighthawks against targets in Panama during Operation Just Cause.  The true test of its capabilities really began during Desert Storm.  Comprising only 2% of the aircraft deployed for operations against Iraqi forces, the F-117A accounted for more than a third of all bombing runs on the first day.  And though they were the only aircraft allowed to strike inside the limits of Baghdad, none of the 36 deployed for the conflict were touched by hostile fire.  After the end of the Gulf War, the Nighthawk continued to operate in the region to enforce compliance with U.N. programs designed to deny weapons of mass destruction to Saddam Hussein’s regime.

Only one F-117A has been lost to enemy action.  On March 27, 1999 during Operation Allied Force, an Army of Yugoslavia SA-3 detonated near an F-117A piloted by Lt. Col. Dale Zelko.  The aircraft had been targeted using ground observation beginning from take-off in Italy and long-wave radar that detected the plane when the bomb bay doors were open.  The pilot ejected safely and was quickly recovered by Marine Corps combat search and rescue.  the wreckage was not bombed because of the proximity of civilians.  This allowed  Russian personnel to inspect and examine the remains.  Technology from this wreck has proved useful to both China and Russia in the development of their own stealth aircraft.

Though they were supposed to remain operational through 2011, early deployment of the F-22 Raptor led to early retirement of the F-117A in 2008.  Because of the sensitivity of the technology, Nighthawks were deemed inappropriate for export sales.  However, the fleet of F-117A’s has not been scrapped.  Instead, they remain in climate controlled hangars at the Tenopah Test Range in “mothballed” condition – possibly awaiting later reactivation or sale.  F-117A’s have been sighted in flight as recently as 2010.

If you want to see more great photos of the Nighthawk, check out the archives at AviationSpectator.com .  Details on specifications and capabilities can be found on the Federation of American Scientists website.

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Warbirds – A-6 Intruder

Today I’m feeling the love for the ugliest plane in the U.S. Navy, the A-6 Intruder.  This all-weather carrier based ground-attack aircraft has been lovingly nicknamed “Double Ugly”, “Drumstick”, and even “Iron Tadpole”.  The unique side-by-side crew configuration led to the rounded and big-nosed aspect of this hard-working plane.

Developed to not only to replace the aging propeller-driven AD- 6/7 Skyraider, she was designed for “over-the-shoulder” launching of nuclear weapons.  Never used for the latter role, variants of the Intruder have served the Navy and Marine Corps from 1963 to the present day.

The sturdy airframe and advanced suite of electronics allowed the Intruder to provide close air support for ground troops in Vietnam even through the blinding cloud cover and torrential rains of the monsoon season.  The first loss of an A-6 to combat occurred in 1965 with both crew surviving.  Of the 84 lost during the war, only 2 were shot down in air-to-air combat.  Intruders saw combat later in Lebanon, Desert Storm, Somalia, and Bosnia before they were retired.

In 1991 Congress cancelled the planned A-12 Avenger II replacement for the aging Intruders.  Avionics and electronics upgrades allowed them to remain operational through 1997 until sufficient LANTIRN-equiped F-14 Tomcats and F/A-18E/F Super Hornets came into service.  The specialized EA-6B, known as the Prowler, still remains in service however.  With it’s stretched airframe, fully integrated electronic warfare systems, and four-man crew, the EA-6B Prowler proudly honored its Intruder heritage with service in Iraq and ongoing roles in Afghanistan.

Feel free to learn more by visiting the Intruder Association website for more history, technical information, and trivia.

P.S. – Don’t forget the Stephen Coonts novel Flight of the Intruder or the film of the same name starring Danny Glover and Willem DaFoe.  Both are available at Amazon.com .

Warbirds – F-16 Fighting Falcon

Our latest edition of Warbirds brings us to the General Dynamics F-16 Fighting Falcon.  This storied Cold War veteran took its first flight on January 20, 1974.

f-16 fighting falcon thunderbird

Requests for proposals in the 1972 Lightweight Fighter (LWF)  initiative brought five companies into competition.  General Dynamics and Northrop were eventually awarded contracts for prototype production.  During a near disastrous taxi test the XF-16 was forced into an unscheduled first flight to avoid destroying the aircraft.  Despite this, the Falcon went on to win the joint U.S. and NATO Air Combat Fighter competition – outperforming the Saab 37E “Eurofighter”, the Dassault-Breguet Mirage F1M-53, the SEPECAT Jaguar, and the Northrop P-530 Cobra (similar to the XF-17).  Citing better maneuverability, greater range, and lower operating costs, the Secretary of the Air Force announced in 1975 its intent to order the first 650 F-16’s.

f-16 fighting falcon line drawing

The first delivery of an F-16A to the USAF occurred on January 6, 1979.  Operational deployment began on October 1, 1980 with the 34th Tactical Fighter Squadron at Hill AFB in Utah.  Since then, over 4500 units of a variety of models have been built.  Air forces of 25 nations have had the F-16 in their service.

f-16 fighting falcon weapons load display

The first combat experiences of the Falcon took place during the 1981 Lebanese Civil War.  F-16s of the Israeli Air Force (IAF) successfully downed in air-to-air combat a Syrian Mi-8 helicopter and a MiG-21.  Later that year, a combined flight of IAF F-16s and F-15s destroyed the nearly completed Iraqi nuclear plant at Osirak.

In the 1980s, NATO and US deployment of the F-16 provided an effective counter to the massive deployments of Warsaw Pact aircraft in Eastern Europe.  Innumerable aerial challenges occurred through the end of the Cold War, but no real combat.  The first action seen by US and NATO F-16s occurred during the 1991 Gulf War – Operation Desert Storm.  From January 16 to February 28, F-16s flew over 13,000 sorties with seven aircraft lost.  Of these losses, only three were due to enemy fire.  Despite their heavy operational tempo, it would be 1992 before the first USAF F-16 would get an air-to-air kill.  During enforcement of the US/UK no-fly zones over Iraq, an F-16D shot down a Mig-25 with an AIM-120 AMRAAM.  This event also marked the first kill by an AMRAAM missile.

f-16 fighting falcon burning iraqi oil wells

F-16s continued to provide vital service throughout the next two decades.  Action was seen in the Balkans in ’93,’94, and ’99 as well as Pakistan from ’86 to ’88 against  Afghan Air Forces.  Later, the Falcons saw combat in Operation Iraqi Freedom (’03-’10) and during operations of the IAF in Lebanon in ’06 as well as from ’08 to ’09.  Today, Japanese and South Korean F-16s routinely deal with aerial challenges from Russian, North Korean, and even Chinese threats.

f-16 fighting falcon show of force

With the ongoing upgrade scheme, the USAF plans to keep the F-16 in service through 2025.  However, with the delayed acquisitions of the F-35 Lightning II, the Fighting Falcon may see its US service extended well beyond that date.  You should expect to see them in the air forces of other nations quite a bit longer.

This is a great documentary on the USAF Thunderbirds, their history, and the F-16. Enjoy!

Lost and Found – January 16th Edition

What to remember about January 16th…

  • 1861  Crittenden Compromise amendments to the Constitution are defeated in the U.S. Senate ending last effort to prevent the Civil War
  • 1919  Ratification of the 19th Amendment to the Constitution is certified; era of Prohibition begins in the United States
  • 1945  Adolf Hitler moves into bunker for 105 days; Hitler will marry Eva Braun and commit suicide while underground
  • 1970  American inventor and designer Buckminster Fuller is awarded Gold Medal of the American Institute of Architects for developing the geodesic dome
  • 1979  Violent demonstrations by Islamic radicals and a possible military mutiny force Shah of Iran flees the country; eventually arrives in America
  • 1991  After U.N. deadline passes, U.S. and coalition forces launch 1st air attacks of the Persian Gulf War; ground offensive will begin February 24th
  • 2003  Space Shuttle Columbia launches on what will be her last voyage; craft will disintegrate on re-entry February 1st
  • UPDATE:2017  Eugene Cernan, US Navy pilot and NASA Astronaut, dies in Houston, TX (b. 1934); he was the last man to have walked on the Moon

Lost and Found – January 12th Edition

What to remember about January 12th…

  • 1876  American author and journalist Jack London is born (d. 1916)
  • 1932  Democrat Ophelia “Hattie” Wyatt Caraway of Arkansas becomes the first woman to be elected to the U.S. Senate
  • 1942  President Franklin D. Roosevelt re-establishes National War Labor Board to regulate business-labor relations
  • 1943  Soviet forces penetrate the year-and-a-half long German siege of Leningrad
  • 1951  American talk show personality and political commentator Rush Hudson Limbaugh III is born in Cape Girardeau, Missouri
  • 1986  Bill Nelson (D-FL) is second sitting Congressman (now Senator) legislator to take flight aboard Space Shuttle as a mission specialist
  • 1991  U.S. House of Representatives and Senate both approve a resolution authorizing use of force against Iraq to liberate Kuwait
  • 2010  7.0 magnitude earthquake strikes the island of Haiti; estimates of 200,000 dead and over 800,000 homeless

Lost and Found – January 9th Edition

What to remember about January 9th…

  • 1776 Patriot Thomas Paine 1st publishes his pamphlet on independence from Britain “Common Sense”
  • 1788  Connecticut becomes 5th state admitted to the Union
  • 1861  Confederate forces in Charleston fire on the Union supply ship Star of the West when it tries to reach Fort Sumter
  • 1913  Future 37th president of the United States Richard Milhous Nixon is born on this day in Yorba Linda, California
  • 1916  Ottoman Empire defeats Allied forces at Battle of Gallipoli leading to evacuation by sea
  • 1945  U.S. forces led by General MacArthur land at Luzon to continue recapture of the Philippine Islands
  • 1964  One of the Hillside Stranglers, Angelo Buono, is sentenced to life in prison; his accomplice Kenneth Bianchi testifies
  • 1991  Talks between representatives of the U.S. and Iraq fail to resolve growing crisis over the invasion of Kuwait
  • 2007  Apple CEO Steve Jobs unveils the first iPhone

MacArthur returns to the Phillipines

Lost and Found – November 29th Edition

What to remember about November 29th…

    • 1775  Continental Congress establishes Committee of Secret Correspondence to elicit aid from European nations
    • 1864  Aspiring Colorado politician John Chivington leads militia band in massacre of Native Americans at Sand Creek
    • 1929  American explorer Admiral Richard Byrd and 3 companions make 1st flight over the South Pole
    • 1947  United Nations approves the partition of Palestine and creation of Israel, an independent Jewish State
    • 1963  President Johnson appoints Warren Commission to investigate the assassination of President Kennedy
    • 1972  Atari Corporation announces the release of Pong; 1st commercially successful video game
    • 1981  Actress Natalie Wood drowns in controversial boating accident off Catalina Island, California (b. 1938)
    • 1990  United Nations passes resolution requiring Iraq to withdraw from Kuwait by January 15, 1991 or face “all means necessary” for their removal by allied nations
    • 2004  Godzilla receives star on Hollywood Walk of Fame

Lost and Found – November 22nd Edition

What to remember about November 22nd…

    • 1718  Infamous English pirate Edward “Blackbeard” Teach is killed by battle with British Navy off North Carolina coast
    • 1783  President of Continental Congress under the Articles of Confederation John Hanson dies (b. 1721)
    • 1864  Confederate forces under General Hood invade Tennessee to try to draw Sherman away from his March to the Sea
    • 1942  Soviet counter-offensive at Stalingrad encircles and traps a quarter million German troops
    • 1954  Humane Society of the United States is founded
    • 1963  President John F. Kennedy is assassinated in Dallas (b. 1917), Texas by communist Lee Harvey Oswald
    • 1977  Supersonic transcontinental passenger service begins with British Airways Concorde
    • 1988  B-2 “stealth” bomber is revealed to the public
    • 1990  President and Mrs. George H.W. Bush have Thanksgiving dinner with U.S. troops in Saudi Arabia
    • 1994  Murder suspect Bennie Lee Lawson opens fire in Washington, D.C. police station; 3 police and the gunman die
    • 1998  60 Minutes airs videotape of Dr. Jack Kevorkian euthanizing patient Thomas Youk; he will serve 8 years in prison for murder

Lost and Found – November 5th Edition

What to remember about November 5th…

    • 1605  Guy Fawkes is arrested for planting bomb under British Parliament in hopes of replacing government  with  Catholic leadership
    • 1775  George Washington condemns Guy Fawkes Night
    • 1872  Susan B. Anthony defies the law and votes for the 1st time; she is later fined $100
    • 1938  “Adagio for Strings” by American composer Samuel Barber makes world premier on radio from New York City
    • 1977  George W. Bush marries Laura Welch in Midland, Texas
    • 1994  Former President Ronald Reagan announces that he has Alzheimer’s disease
    • 2006  Former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein is sentenced to death in Baghdad for crimes against humanity
    • 2009  13 killed and 32 wounded when Muslim U.S. Army Major Nidal Hasan goes on shooting spree while shouting “Alahu Akbar”
    • UPDATE:  2011  American radio and television personality Andrew Aitken “Andy” Rooney dies (b. 1919)

Lost and Found – October 16th Edition

What to remember about October 16th…

    • 1773  Public sentiment against the Tea Act is voiced when Philadelphia Resolutions are published; leads to tea party
    • 1781  Cornwallis attempts to evacuate his troops from Yorktown but bad weather ends his hope of escape
    • 1859  Abolitionist John Brown leads a raid against a federal armory in an attempt to spark a slave revolt
    • 1916  Eugenicist and Planned Parenthood founder Margaret Sanger opens the 1st family planning clinic in America
    • 1946  10 convicted Nazi war criminals are hanged after the main trials conclude at Nuremberg
    • 1964  China detonates an atomic bomb; becomes the worlds 5th nuclear power
    • 1995  Million Man March is held in Washington, D.C.
    • 2004  Department of Veterans Affairs committee concludes “a substantial proportion of Gulf War veterans are ill with multi-symptom conditions”