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F-117A Stealth Fighter Retired

CmdrTaco posted more than 5 years ago | from the so-freaking-cool dept.

The Military 476

zonker writes "Nearly 30 years ago Lockheed Martin's elite Skunk Works team developed what would become the F-117A Nighthawk Stealth Fighter. A few of their earlier projects include the SR-71 Blackbird and U2 Dragon Lady spy planes. Today is the last for the Stealth Fighter, which is being replaced by the F-22 Raptor (another Skunk Works project)."

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Have you heard about this? (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#23147776)

Researchers from the University of Manchester have created some of the smallest transistors ever, measuring only one atom by 10 atoms.
In other words, researchers have created a microscopic transistor that is still 100 times the size of Rob Malda's penis.

Re:Have you heard about this? (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#23147880)

The minimum size (width) for a penis is in fact 3 atoms.

2 atoms on either side act as a rail, with the gap in the middle being the patch through which atomized urine/semen/etc is expelled. It would have to be expelled using a railgun-like effect, though.

A similar design using a width of two atoms is possible - but you lose control and have to rely on gravity (and a steady hand) since you can't get a rail gun effect going. You could use externally generated fields to propel the urine/semen/etc, but these, in effect, would then be an extension of the penis itself.

Fuel leaking SR-71's (3, Interesting)

LM741N (258038) | more than 5 years ago | (#23147808)

I understand that the SR-71's leaked fuel until they got up high enough so that the vacuum pressed everything together tightly. But speaking of engines, how did they keep the fuel from igniting from the engine while it was leaking?

Re:Fuel leaking SR-71's (4, Informative)

Z00L00K (682162) | more than 5 years ago | (#23147840)

No - it wasn't the vacuum it was the heat from the drag caused by the supersonic speed that heated the plane enough to stop the leaks.

Re:Fuel leaking SR-71's (4, Interesting)

UnknowingFool (672806) | more than 5 years ago | (#23148102)

Also the SR-71 would have only just enough fuel to take off and revendevous with a jet tanker as soon as possible.

Re:Fuel leaking SR-71's (5, Interesting)

sootman (158191) | more than 5 years ago | (#23148380)

And AFAIK, that was by design. They knew it would expand, so they took advantage of that and optimized the plane for flight, rather than sitting on the ground, which makes sense to me. From http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/SR-71#Fuselage [wikipedia.org]

To allow for thermal expansion at the high operational temperatures the fuselage panels were manufactured to fit only loosely on the ground. Proper alignment was only achieved when the airframe warmed up due to air resistance at high speeds, causing the airframe to expand several inches. Because of this, and the lack of a fuel sealing system that could handle the extreme temperatures, the aircraft would leak JP-7 jet fuel onto the runway before it took off. The aircraft would quickly make a short sprint, meant to warm up the airframe, and was then refueled in the air before departing on its mission... On landing after a mission the canopy temperature was over 300 C, too hot to approach.
I could read about the SR-71 all day long. That thing was a freaking marvel in every sense of the word and there are a million neat details about it, and it's amazing to consider that it was built in the early 60s. One little tidbit you'll often hear (so it must be true ;-) ) -- "if a surface-to-air missile launch were detected, standard evasive action was simply to accelerate and climb." The freaking thing officially flew across the country in 68 minutes. [wikipedia.org]

Re:Fuel leaking SR-71's (4, Informative)

Thelasko (1196535) | more than 5 years ago | (#23147896)

They leaked fuel until the heat caused by friction (like on the space shuttle) made the panels fit together by thermal expansion. [wikipedia.org] The fuel was also very difficult to ignite.

Re:Fuel leaking SR-71's (1)

shawn(at)fsu (447153) | more than 5 years ago | (#23148002)

I heard of stories where the had the fuel in an open container and would drop a lighted match in it, the fuel would not ignite. Don't know the truthienss of the story but it does convey how hard it was to ignite.

Re:Fuel leaking SR-71's (4, Informative)

DAtkins (768457) | more than 5 years ago | (#23148424)

There was an episode of Mythbusters which, while not directly related, did show that diesel and jet fuel would not ignite even under a plumbers blowtorch.

As always, it's the air/fuel mixture that's the important part. This does not hold for gasoline, which gives off vapors quite nicely, thank you.

Re:Fuel leaking SR-71's (2, Informative)

MightyYar (622222) | more than 5 years ago | (#23148460)

I heard of stories where the had the fuel in an open container and would drop a lighted match in it, the fuel would not ignite.
Well, since that's true of plain-old kerosene, I don't doubt it for exotic blends of jet fuel.

Re:Fuel leaking SR-71's (1)

sexconker (1179573) | more than 5 years ago | (#23148550)

But in Resident Evil (the remake for GameCube) you could dowse downed undead with kersone, and light them with a standard lighter. (To prevent them from becoming crimson head zombies which would chase you at high speed later.)

Re:Fuel leaking SR-71's (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#23148576)

I've heard the same thing said about diesel fuel, but I don't believe it, because I used diesel to start a fire once and it was easy to light.

Re:Fuel leaking SR-71's (2, Interesting)

mhall119 (1035984) | more than 5 years ago | (#23148048)

This is slashdot, so someone has to point it out. The shuttle experiences heating from ram pressure [wikipedia.org] , not friction.

See also: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Space_shuttle_thermal_protection_system [wikipedia.org]

Re:Fuel leaking SR-71's (1)

PortHaven (242123) | more than 5 years ago | (#23148250)


"Friction"

-->

"In physics, ram pressure is a pressure exerted on a body which is moving through a fluid medium. It causes a strong drag force to be exerted on the body."

-->

"n fluid dynamics, drag (sometimes called resistance) is the force that resists the movement of a solid object through a fluid (a liquid or gas). Drag is made up of friction forces"

So it looks to me to be friction, just the creation of a pressure buffer taking the direction friction.

Re:Fuel leaking SR-71's (1)

digitaldaemon (515710) | more than 5 years ago | (#23147956)

I do not think that was vacuum, but heat/warmth that caused expansion and would do the job.

Re:Fuel leaking SR-71's (1, Flamebait)

PortHaven (242123) | more than 5 years ago | (#23147978)

Because jet fuel does not combust as easily as the government cover-up of the shooting of Flight 800 would like you to believe. ;-)

Re:Fuel leaking SR-71's (1)

jedidiah (1196) | more than 5 years ago | (#23148354)

....well, it combusts easily enough to be used as Jet fuel.

Re:Fuel leaking SR-71's (3, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#23148414)

Because jet fuel does not combust as easily as the government cover-up of the shooting of Flight 800 would like you to believe. ;-)
Liquid fuel, be it jet fuel or simply gasoline is very hard to get to burn. Fuel Vapor of either of these however, is extremely east to ignite... and that, as I recall was the problem with flight 800. That the forward fuel tank was empty. Meaning it was full of fumes, and thus highly volatile.

Re:Fuel leaking SR-71's (2, Informative)

MightyYar (622222) | more than 5 years ago | (#23148516)

Jet fuel VAPOR, on the other hand...

Re:Fuel leaking SR-71's (2, Informative)

RoninOtter (1002003) | more than 5 years ago | (#23148520)

Actually it's because the SR-71 doesn't use normal Jet Fuel. Typical fuel for large jet engines is US Jet A1 which is a kerosene-based fuel and it is very flammable. The Blackbird's engines used something called JP7 which has a very high flash point. You can actually drop a lit match into a bucket of JP7 and the match will simply go out.

In order to get ignition to start the engines initially, an additive chemical needed to be used to get the fuel's flash point temporarily lowered.

And don't get me started on the "Pierre Salinger Syndrome."

Re:Fuel leaking SR-71's (4, Informative)

Stanistani (808333) | more than 5 years ago | (#23148564)

So, post your evidence.

We've seen that if you have three feds in a conspiracy, one will blab to the Washington Post, so... name your source.

. . .

I suspect I'll be waiting a long time.

The center tank on TWA Flight 800 was almost empty, overheated and full of fumes, and likely a spark from a poorly wired fuel sensor detonated it.

Oh, if you were kidding, it wasn't funny, emoticon or no.

Re:Fuel leaking SR-71's (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#23148306)

The Wikipedia link answered your question, in the section about fuel.

Re:Fuel leaking SR-71's (5, Interesting)

Frosty Piss (770223) | more than 5 years ago | (#23148316)

But speaking of engines, how did they keep the fuel from igniting from the engine while it was leaking?
I was stationed at Beale and spent many nights on standby while they fueled the Blackbird. Its fuel is almost impossible to ignite without the catalyst tetraethylborane (TEB), which ignites on contact with air. There where often pools of fuel under the plane when they sat in the hangars for a few days.

The thing that I always thought amazing at the time I worked with them was that the avionics seemed so outdated in an age where most older airframes where being fitted with glass. Lot's of round gages and such.

Re:Fuel leaking SR-71's (1)

Thelasko (1196535) | more than 5 years ago | (#23148556)

Mod parent up
As I understood there was something to do with the environment the aircraft flew in that required it to use the mechanical gages.

Re:Fuel leaking SR-71's (1)

hador_nyc (903322) | more than 5 years ago | (#23148482)

the fuel cannot be ignited with a match; like diesel. that's how it was safe.

Old technology (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#23147820)

Recently, a group in the UK restored a wartime fighter [yahoo.com] from WWII. It was just a bunch of amateurs, I wonder if in 50 years, a similar group will be restoring the F-117A?

Re:Old technology (2, Informative)

somersault (912633) | more than 5 years ago | (#23148054)

Link is a GNAA troll. Fuck you, anonymous coward. There were also way more fighter planes in WWII than F117As. And the tech in them is probably still classified? *shrug*

Great... (-1, Flamebait)

BrainInAJar (584756) | more than 5 years ago | (#23147828)

Murdering made more efficient isn't "news for nerds"

Re:Great... (1)

somersault (912633) | more than 5 years ago | (#23148084)

Is for me, I used to have an F117A flight sim on me Amiga as a kid.

Plus, Microsoft seem to get a lot of press even though they murder application and OS design and implementation all the time.

Re:Great... (1)

MightyYar (622222) | more than 5 years ago | (#23148554)

Get a grip!

I still want to know... (3, Insightful)

WiglyWorm (1139035) | more than 5 years ago | (#23147870)

why are they called "stealth fighters"? They're actually a tactical bomber, and so far as I know, they don't have any method of attacking another air craft.

Re:I still want to know... (1)

OrochimaruVoldemort (1248060) | more than 5 years ago | (#23147910)

because they avoid radar detection by the shape of their hull (it makes the radar bounce back or something like that)

Re:I still want to know... (1)

operagost (62405) | more than 5 years ago | (#23148026)

Obviously, he meant the "fighter" part. The answer would have to be something like "pride" or "ego"-- AF pilots prefer the aggression of a craft with AA capabilities like an F-15, although the really twisted ones like hitting ground targets in a more personal fashion with the A-10.

Re:I still want to know... (4, Informative)

mgabrys_sf (951552) | more than 5 years ago | (#23148182)

Um - no it doesn't "make the radar bounce back". Radar works by bouncing back a signal to detect. Meaning if it did - it wouldn't be invisible at all - it'd be working with radar just dandy. It deflects the radar's signal to produce a much smaller return signal. Meaning it was never "invisible" but had a small enough cross-section to be regarded as a non-threat.

Re:I still want to know... (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#23147912)

Because back in the day when it was being designed they called it a fighter to confuse potential spies.

Re:I still want to know... (1)

digitaldaemon (515710) | more than 5 years ago | (#23147938)

Actually, just the F117 Night Hawk is a bomber as far as I know. They were called fighters because of the "Stigma" that fighter pilots have towards bombers...

USAF Deception (4, Interesting)

tjstork (137384) | more than 5 years ago | (#23148170)

Actually, just the F117 Night Hawk is a bomber as far as I know

The F- designation was actually deliberate. The USAF didn't want enemies to know that this was a bomber, not a fighter, so they named it differently.

Re:USAF Deception (1)

LWATCDR (28044) | more than 5 years ago | (#23148480)

Also notice the number. All fighters after a certian date got renumbered. The F-117 was much newer than the F-4, the F-15, and F-16. The Air Forced used the nunbers above 112 (I think) for Soviet aircraft that we managed to acquire during the cold war. By putting calling the Nighthawk the F-117 it might have confused the soviets into thinking it was a Mig, SU, or Yak we happened to pickup. Of course we kept them under security so it was even more deceptive.

Re:I still want to know... (4, Informative)

bigkahunafish (708759) | more than 5 years ago | (#23147954)

the theories regarding this are two-fold...

First, fighters generally attract the better pilots than bombers, and since the F117 was a first strike or tactical strike craft, good pilots were of utmost importance...

Second, naming it as a fighter helped with the secrecy surrounding its true capabilities and use, especially in Cold War times...

Re:I still want to know... (2, Informative)

TellarHK (159748) | more than 5 years ago | (#23148076)

I loved that game, but what always struck me as mildly depressing was playing the classic "Jetfighter II" which had the YF-23 "Black Widow" in it, the plane that eventually lost out to the F-22 in that round of fighting proposals. The YF-23 was such a gorgeous concept.

Of course, the best thing about Jetfighter II was mid 90's game physics. I fondly recall the time I landed a YF-23 on a carrier with a three-point landing due to intentional stalling at 10 feet off the deck. Low and slow, vector thrust upward, kill the throttle entirely and glide over the deck until you pop flaps and yank the nose up until you nail a stall then level off with gear down and just drop.

You lost me at.... (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#23148506)

who gives a fuck!!!!

Re:I still want to know... (1)

KeithJM (1024071) | more than 5 years ago | (#23147972)

why are they called "stealth fighters"?
Wikipedia says they named it F-117 rather than B-something (which would be usual for a bomber) because it was harder to fly than regular bombers, and they wanted to attract fighter pilots to fly it. I believe the Ministry of Truth named it. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/F-117_Nighthawk [wikipedia.org] (scroll down to "Designation."

Re:I still want to know... (1)

sycodon (149926) | more than 5 years ago | (#23148024)

They are called stealth fighters because the configuration of the aircraft surfaces and the material they are made of deflect and/or absorb radar signals.

The carry weapons including air-to-air missiles and bombs in internal bays to conceal them from radar.

They also have a M61A2 Vulcan 20 mm rotary cannon. Definitely bad news for the bad guys.

Re:I still want to know... (1)

sycodon (149926) | more than 5 years ago | (#23148114)

Never mind...that was about the Raptor.

Re:I still want to know... (2, Interesting)

Thelasko (1196535) | more than 5 years ago | (#23148040)

why are they called "stealth fighters"? They're actually a tactical bomber, and so far as I know, they don't have any method of attacking another air craft.
I suspect they called it that to make advisories confused about the aircraft's capabilities.

Re:I still want to know... (1)

Thelasko (1196535) | more than 5 years ago | (#23148100)

Correction:
I suspect they called it that to make adversaries confused about the aircraft's capabilities.

proving once again that spell check isn't fool proof.

Re:I still want to know... (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#23148272)

Actually the 117-B had the AMRAAM and Sidewinder missile capability, but was largely unused.

One reason was obvious - you had to have the bomb bay doors open to fire them.

I believe they also had to fly level to the ground to deploy the missile properly.
Then in order for the missile to track, painting the target with radar also broke stealth.
So a bad combo for an interceptor, esp given the price tag versus other fighters.

Given the level of C&C where the 117 was flying, there was probably never a significant
threat from enemy aircraft in any sortie, anywhere. That threat died with the CCCP.

Re:I still want to know... (2, Insightful)

Richard_at_work (517087) | more than 5 years ago | (#23148464)

The USAF fleet underwent significant consolidation in the cold year wars, with some of the light to medium bombers roles being moved to the new heavier multirole fighters of the era, with great effect. Thats where the F-117 gets its fighter designation.

Don't worry about it... (4, Funny)

thewils (463314) | more than 5 years ago | (#23147882)

I'm sure it will retire to a nice well-paid job in the defense industry.

Microprose (3, Interesting)

tangent3 (449222) | more than 5 years ago | (#23147904)

My fondest memories of the F117 is playing the Microprose simulator [wikipedia.org] . The original version was named F19 Stealth Fighter until the F117 was declassified in which the version 2.0 of the game, updated with VGA graphics and Persian Gulf campaigns was renamed F117A Stealth Fighter.

It was quite an interesting change, whereas in most other combat flight simulators like Falcon 3.0 and F15 Strike Eagle I would be actively seeking a fight with any enemy on my radar and pumping them full of sidewinders or 20MM, in F117A the mission is to avoid the enemy patrols and ground radars

Re:Microprose (1)

PortHaven (242123) | more than 5 years ago | (#23148046)

I used to play that on my Commodore 128 along with Red Storm Rising. (Ironically the graphics were better for my Commodore 128 than on my family's 386DX30mhz.)

Anyways, I found this weird bug that if I had my pitch at just the right degree and was flying at the max ceiling. I could fly across the entire mediteranean on zero fuel. Of course, this meant only one chance to land the sucker...

But on more than one occasion I took out my target, was low on fuel...jetted up to 50,000ft and pointed my noise in just the right angle and let it run out of fuel.

Anyone else ever do this?

Re:Microprose (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#23148596)

I used to do something similar on F-15 Strike Fighter. If you ran out of fuel during the game, you could hold the afterburner key down and get little periodic spurts of speed, right up to vmax. Used to play for hours on Joker fuel....

Sounds like F15 and F117 sims had some interesting fuel/speed-related glitches.

Re:Microprose (1)

Zocalo (252965) | more than 5 years ago | (#23148612)

I didn't know about the 50,000ft across the Med. thing, but I used to conserve a huge amount of fuel in the initial "F-19 Stealth Fighter" take by climbing to the ceiling, then just switching everything off and gliding in low EM mode. Of course, the real plane with its notoriously quirky aerodynamics would drop like a rock if you tried that, but how were Microprose to know that when they'd got the basic design of the plane completely wrong - I think they must have used some artist's concept from "Flight" or something.

There was one particularly sweet mission profile that let you really rack up the points too; I think it was in the "warm war" state where you could pretty much take out any target you wanted but not get swarmed by hostiles or reprimanded upon return. Basically, you took a "touch and go mission" where you had to land at some secret airstrip, loaded up on A2S weapons and popped a couple of high profile missile sites on the way in or out. Hit the secondary target and kill a few hostile AWACS with your cannon and it was pretty much one of the top medals (I think I had five CMoH's on one pilot) and a promotion every time.

Happy days in EGA for me and, pack rat that I am, I probably still have the original floppies around somewhere!

What are they working on now? (3, Insightful)

QuantumRiff (120817) | more than 5 years ago | (#23147906)

the SR-71 was designed in the 60's, the stealth fighter was designed in the 70's, the F-22 started in the mid 80's, kinda makes you wonder what the hell they're working on now!

I was pretty young, but I don't remember there being nearly as much "public" information about the stealth fighter until it was used in action. It seems there is alot more details about the F-22 before it was in service. Is that because there is more communication with the taxpayers nowadays, or because they don't want you to ask whats in the left hand?

Re:What are they working on now? (4, Insightful)

TellarHK (159748) | more than 5 years ago | (#23147992)

Knock your SR-71 design estimate back about a decade. The OXCART contract that created the SR-71 (evolving it from the A-12) was awarded in 1959, so all the real design work was done before 1960, it was just the construction that took a couple years. And the SR-71 served damn well until we put enough satellites in the sky to cover things almost as well with closer to realtime monitoring.

Sometimes it makes you wonder just how many eyes the military really has up there now, if they were willing to mothball the SR-71 with no (public) clear successor.

Re:What are they working on now? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#23148050)

kinda makes you wonder what the hell they're working on now!
Skynet. Unmanned aircraft. Seems the last caveat to eliminate is the pilot's physical limitations.

Re:What are they working on now? (4, Interesting)

PortHaven (242123) | more than 5 years ago | (#23148160)

Nah....

The F-22 is the real "stealth fighter". The F-117A was the stealth attack craft/tactical bomber.

Fighters usually aren't all that super secret. But reconnaissance, and strategic assault vehicles. Now those are secret.

The F-117A's mission is likely to be super-seded by unmanned stealth drones.

The SR-71 was retired a while back. The F-117A was NOT a replacement for the SR-71. Rather, both operated concurrently for some time.

The mostly likely replacement for the Blackbird is the Aurora project. Sometimes caught by seismologists and observers. Rumored to use a a pulsating scramjet and being the mach 5-8 range.

Then there is the B2 (flying wing) bomber and the B1-B The B1-B being famous for numerous crashes. Though very few in later years. What was the change? The government had been only doing 85% of the maintenance recommended for the bombers by it's manufacturers. They began doing the full maintenance recommended maintenance, fluid changes, etc. Things ceased failing...go figure.

Re:What are they working on now? (2, Funny)

Thelasko (1196535) | more than 5 years ago | (#23148222)

Sheriff of Rottingham: This is a stealth catapult, we've been working on it secretly for months. It can hurl one of these heavy boulders undetected, over a hundred yards, completely destroying anything in its path.

Prince John: Wow! How's it work?

Sheriff of Rottingham: It's rather simple. You get one of these heavy boulders, put it here where I'm sitting, and then pull on that lever.

Prince John: Like this?

[John pulls the lever and flings Mervin into the air]

Sheriff of Rottingham: AAAAAAAAAAAAAAGGGGGGGGGGGHHHHHHH!

Re:What are they working on now? (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#23148360)

There is probably a more mundane reason behind it. Such as, the air force not wanting to get their funding cut, or maybe get their funding increased. They can show congress and their constituents all the cool new toys their tax dollars are producing and ask for more tax dollars to produce more new toys.

During the cold war getting funding was less of a problem due to the looming soviet threat and secrecy was more important.

'Fighter?' (1)

fiannaFailMan (702447) | more than 5 years ago | (#23147914)

Wasn't it more of a bomber than a fighter?

Re:'Fighter?' (4, Informative)

smooth wombat (796938) | more than 5 years ago | (#23148082)

Yes. So far as I am aware, it was never designed for air-to-air combat. Rather, it was to be used as it was in the first days of the 1990 Gulf conflict during Bush I's tenure: to hit high value, heavily defended targets.


More information on the role of the F-117 can be found at Frontline [pbs.org] , AirToAirCombat.com [airtoaircombat.com] , FAS [fas.org] as well as other sources on the intertubes. Last link has pictures of the aircraft as well as pictures and a non-Flash video of the aftermath of the only F-117 to ever be shot down. In this case, over Serbia.

Re:'Fighter?' (1)

NekSnappa (803141) | more than 5 years ago | (#23148446)

Actually the first operational use was when George H. Bush went after Noriega in Panama in 1989.

Deprecated Warfighting (3, Interesting)

TellarHK (159748) | more than 5 years ago | (#23147918)

In a day and age where aircraft from the 1950's are still flying and in active service, to see something like the F-117 come and go so quickly has to be a sign of major design limitations from the first day of use.

Two bombs, no Air-to-Air capability other than playing "How not to be seen." really well, and subsonic speeds just seemed to make the F-117 come across as oddball in my eyes. Either the F-22 has better stealth than we realize, or there's something newer, more stealthier and more secretive coming around.

Re:Deprecated Warfighting (1)

zulater (635326) | more than 5 years ago | (#23148064)

well we have the stealth bomber as well now that can carry more than the stealth fighter. Then yeah the F-22 to fulfill the air to air missions that can also do the air to ground at the same time. It was also, as you said, the limitations of the F-117. It was basically the first real/successful attempt at stealth (that I remember offhand) so I wouldn't be suprised if it was more of a good concept that the government jumped at instead of saying 'that's good, now make it carry more'.
Still very interesting and I agree that I can't wait to see the next iteration that we know nothing about yet.

Re:Deprecated Warfighting (2, Insightful)

Gregb05 (754217) | more than 5 years ago | (#23148178)

The B-2 is what you're looking for. Longer operational range, bigger payload, better stealth, looks prettier and it's easier to fly.
B-2 is for stealth bombing and midnight strikes, F-22 is for air fighting, B-52 is used for heavy hitting when the radar is down or irrelevant. There's no niche for the F-117 any more.

B-52 reverse-Stealth System (3, Interesting)

PortHaven (242123) | more than 5 years ago | (#23148474)

There was a proposition to modify the B-52's with reverse-stealth technology.

A similar idea had been proposed for the B-52's a few years ago. Since you can't really make such a craft stealth, how do you keep them viable.

Well B-52s are mainly used in one of two capacities. Single bomber support role, carpet bombing (albeit with more intelligent bombs these days) in prep for a land transaction. Or the more purposeful original intention of a strategic bomber. In which case a whole flight of bombers would be sent out to level much foe.

But with radar and missiles, how can such aircraft get to their targets.

I used to work on a 90ft schooner (sailboat for the landlubbers). Anyways, we had a radar reflector that would make us show up much larger on radar.

The idea was to go the opposite route. Instead of stealth, have all the B-52's light up those radars as bright as they can. So instead of seeing the large B-52 on the radar you'd see something akin to the size of the ships in Independence Day. Huge giant radar blob. In fact dozens of giant radar blobs.

So yes, you'd know something was coming. The radar makes that clear. But trying to pin point it's exact position and mobilize fighters becomes more challenging because well, it's showing up in almost a mile of air space or more. I don't think the Air Force ever went thru with the expense. But one never knows...it might have been done and listed as $200 toilet seats. ;-)

Re:Deprecated Warfighting (1)

PortHaven (242123) | more than 5 years ago | (#23148202)

That's my big question.

How does the radar signature of the F-22 compare to the F-117.

Another big issue, might have been China's development of tying the RADAR units together and analyzing the data so that they could track the F-117A. Defeating it's stealth capabilities.

Such a blow pretty much made the craft useless strategically and only of good in small tactical situations against poorly equipped foes.

Re:Deprecated Warfighting (1)

truthsearch (249536) | more than 5 years ago | (#23148244)

or there's something newer, more stealthier and more secretive coming around
Isn't there always? We, of course, just haven't heard about it yet. Maybe in about 20 years...

Re:Deprecated Warfighting (4, Interesting)

hcdejong (561314) | more than 5 years ago | (#23148256)

Count on the F-22 having better radar stealth than the F-117. The F-117 fell victim to Moore's law: During its design, all the engineers were capable of simulating (for stealth characteristics) were flat panels, hence the faceted skin, which dictated the rest of the design.

The size was another compromise (smaller = easier to hide), and the engines didn't have afterburners to minimise the IR signature, which meant no supersonic flight. Radar technology wasn't advanced enough to build a low-observable (or Low Probability of Intercept, LPI) air search radar, and a 1970's radar would compromise the aircraft's stealthiness even when turned off.

Oddball maybe, but the F-117 was the best possible design with 1970s technology. To get it to work at all, everything else had to be sacrificed for the one mission that couldn't be done by any other platform: surprise attacks.

Re:Deprecated Warfighting (1)

N22YF (870358) | more than 5 years ago | (#23148290)

Either the F-22 has better stealth than we realize, or there's something newer, more stealthier and more secretive coming around.
Yeah, I believe the F-22 does have very effective stealth. The F-117 was first-generation stealth (unless you count the SR-71), and there's been so much development since then that I wouldn't be surprised if the F-22 were more stealthy than the F-117, and I believe its stealth-related maintenance is much lower than the F-117's as well. There were a lot of compromises in the F-117's design that we don't have to make anymore.

Re:Deprecated Warfighting (3, Informative)

Ironsides (739422) | more than 5 years ago | (#23148346)

Either the F-22 has better stealth than we realize, or there's something newer, more stealthier and more secretive coming around.


Both. The F-22 is the first true stealth fighter, the B-2 is the first true stealth bomber. The F-117 was really a stealth hack. That said, given the long developement times on aircraft, there is always something newer in the works. Also, fighters (among other things) are made to be upgradeable over their lifespan. There have been 3 different generations of the F-18 for the military alone and the older ones are usually upgraded along the way instead of being replaced. That is in addition to 'minor' upgrades such as electronics. If you want to know what is cuttin edge today, you need a high level security clearance and to be in the need to know.

Re:Deprecated Warfighting (3, Interesting)

maxume (22995) | more than 5 years ago | (#23148400)

The stealth technology at the point the plane was designed required that the plane have flat surfaces. The plane was built, on purpose, in the face of a major design limitation. As much as anything, it was a proof of concept that got more funding than it should have(i.e., the military probably didn't need to actually buy a production run).

The F-22 might not have better stealth than we realize, but it is pretty clear that it is a whole new class of aircraft(beating expert F-15 pilots 3 to 1 is no joke) and it is stealthier than anything else that provides similar capabilities.

Re:Deprecated Warfighting (5, Insightful)

Darth_brooks (180756) | more than 5 years ago | (#23148412)

Your generalizations don't quite fit here.

True, the B-52 and C-130 are 1950's vintage *designs*, the actual airframes that are still in service are very late runs off the line. The current B-52's were built between 1960 and 1961, and the C-130's should all be post-1965 (or later). They also don't share any of the tactical missions that the F-117 performs. For example, the B-52 is a heavy bomber. It's going to drop a whole hell of a lot of metal on a target, or carry 1.5 imperial assloads of cruise missiles near a target, unload them, then head back home in time for "Lost". The C-130 has perfected the art of flying rubber dog poop out of Hong Kong.

Now, the F-117's job is to take the first steps towards making the C-130 or the B-52's job possible. Strike missions on heavily defended targets. Given the high tolerances the skin of the airframe must meet in order to stay stealthy, normal wear and tear on the airframe (say, a wing tip that is now an inch or two higher than before thanks to a high-G turn) could negate most of the aircraft's advantage. Comparing the F-117 to anything is is comparing oranges to briefcases.

The statement always comes up "what're they working on now? I bet they're using them thar captured UFO's and roswell alien stuff now!!!" Ummm, yeah, I doubt it. Instead of shrinking the airframe's radar signature in order to protect the pilot, they've just gone ahead and shrunk the airframe *and* the radar signature. Tomahawks, Predator drones, better satellites, and better communications between all three. That's what has retired the SR-71 and the F-117.

I think we're finally beginning to see the retirement of some of the meat in the seat for the really, really, really dangerous stuff. You can have a $120 million dollar fighter with $3-5 million dollars worth of pilot take out a target, or $3 million dollar drone hit the same target. Even the government can do that math.

Imperial assloads (3, Funny)

sconeu (64226) | more than 5 years ago | (#23148530)

How many VW's in an imperial assload?

Seriously, though, that's a fairly nice analysis.

Re:Deprecated Warfighting (1)

Richard_at_work (517087) | more than 5 years ago | (#23148582)

The F-117 was literally the product of someone saying 'make an aircraft invisible to radar' at a time when computer modeling was at its youngest - the F-22 has a much smaller radar cross section than the F-117 but has more normal looks and capabilities because we can calculate surface characteristics better.

Oh, and the requirements were not meant to produce an all round well performer, it was originally intended to be a silver bullet style weapon, utterly deniable and operated by the CIA like both the U-2 and A-12 before it. Two weapons was all it needed for the missions intended, but it was eventually assigned to the USAF inventory for similar uses.

Frost pi5t (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#23147924)

SlasHdot 'BSD is [goat.cx]

Meanwhile... (3, Funny)

operagost (62405) | more than 5 years ago | (#23147932)

... after 56 years, the B-52s keep flying. No, I don't mean the band, although I do like the idea of roaming if I so desire.

Re:Meanwhile... (2, Insightful)

stoolpigeon (454276) | more than 5 years ago | (#23147996)

which goes to show you how much longer an airframe can last when not put under the stresses of acm.

Re:Meanwhile... (1)

PortHaven (242123) | more than 5 years ago | (#23148492)

acm ???

Re:Meanwhile... (2, Informative)

TheOldBear (681288) | more than 5 years ago | (#23148608)

Air Combat Maneuvering - dogfighting or missile evasion.

Re:Meanwhile... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#23148426)

Yes, and neither the F-117 or the B-52 has killed Osama Bin Laden yet.

Back to the drawing board...

Re:Meanwhile... (1)

Ironsides (739422) | more than 5 years ago | (#23148466)

And they are expected to keep flying for another 30 years. It's going to be interesting to see what replaces them. To bad we only have about 80 left in use.

Re:Meanwhile... (2, Informative)

ari_j (90255) | more than 5 years ago | (#23148468)

The B-52s are coming back, though, and I do mean the band. Funplex [westerncourier.com] is the new album. o hai - im in ur lurv shakk, roman w/ all ur rock lobstahs

A good plane (5, Interesting)

Protonk (599901) | more than 5 years ago | (#23147952)

The F-117 has a great history and it will be interesting to see it go. I'm not normally the military tech-fetishist type, but this was a supremely odd creature that got to fly. Embodied in this plane are so many examples of ingenuity and hubris, it makes a good vessel for late 20th century american history.

We developed this plane in secret, with borrowed theories from the russians. The plane itself came out of a corporate Manhattan project, built by a combination of old salts who could wave their hands and make grumpy generalizations about engine configuration that hours of calculations would bear out and younger engineers employing technology that wasn't readily available outside the united states.

It was kept secret until we felt the need to unveil it as the epitome of american superiority in Panama and the gulf war. We spent a decade lauding the precision strike capability, ignoring reports that smart bombs were only so smart. Only in the past 5 years have we grudgingly come to accept that there were limitations to the strategy of aerial bombardment, limitations that hampered our ability to fight and killed civilians on the ground. But that doesn't make this plane or its pilots evil or murderous. We just became caught up in the technology, the gritty night vision cameras resulting in static filled screens where buildings used to be.

In a lot of ways, that is similar to our love affair with this plane. Ugly, but elegant. Unflyable without computer aided control but possessing strangely beautiful lines. Born of american ingenuity and sullied by hubris. It is a wonderful aircraft, and a great story. Thanks to the men (and women) who built it and flew it throughout the years.

Re:A good plane (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#23148238)

There's something oddly poetic about your post.

Re:A good plane (1)

Vampyre_Dark (630787) | more than 5 years ago | (#23148504)

I'll never forget the first time I saw one of those things. I was ten years old, waiting at a bus stop with my father, when one of those flew overhead. It looked completely surreal. It was very creepy seeing this big, silent, killing machine, hovering over me. =0)

Not that great (2, Insightful)

Thelasko (1196535) | more than 5 years ago | (#23147994)

The stealth fighter was really more of a proof of concept of what stealth technology could do. The plane sacrificed quite a bit in aerodynamics to be stealth capable. It was a subsonic vehicle and, despite what it's name suggests, it had no air-to-air combat abilities.

Although it was revolutionary at the time it first came out, keeping this aircraft in the skies would be a disservice to the taxpaying public.

Re:Not that great (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#23148302)

"AND WOMEN"?! BULLSHIT. Go to hell you feminist pro-woman's rights lying piece of shit.

Re:Not that great (1)

N22YF (870358) | more than 5 years ago | (#23148382)

The stealth fighter was really more of a proof of concept of what stealth technology could do. The plane sacrificed quite a bit in aerodynamics to be stealth capable. It was a subsonic vehicle and, despite what it's name suggests, it had no air-to-air combat abilities. Although it was revolutionary at the time it first came out, keeping this aircraft in the skies would be a disservice to the taxpaying public.
I think that's a little harsh... it was a very valuable aircraft for over a decade, and until the F-22 entered service recently it was the only aircraft that could perform that particular mission. But now that the F-22 is in service, I agree that there's no reason to keep the F-117 around.

Fare thee well (1)

nastro (32421) | more than 5 years ago | (#23148220)

It's off the the great Danger Zone in the Sky...

Wait. That's where it was.

It's off to ... Davis-Monthan on the ground. Not quite so good, metaphorically, but it'll have to do.

Re:Fare thee well (1)

jrmcc (703725) | more than 5 years ago | (#23148342)

Don't you mean it's on the Highway to the Danger Zone? [stlyrics.com]

Re:Fare thee well (1)

ravan_a (222804) | more than 5 years ago | (#23148534)

For a change they're actually sending them to Tonopah Test Range Airfield [wikipedia.org] .

Re:Fare thee well (1)

nastro (32421) | more than 5 years ago | (#23148616)

Cool! Although that place has no where near as interesting a view from google maps.

Abandoned (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#23148262)

Well, now that it's retired, I guess that officially makes it abandonware [victorclaessen.nl] .

Farewell Stinkbug! (1)

FurtiveGlancer (1274746) | more than 5 years ago | (#23148310)

The F-117 was an amazing aircraft. Mostly amazing because it actually worked and it was kept secret much longer than most things in our leak-filled government.

When the composite material burns, it gives off highly toxic fumes, hence the name "stinkbug."

Test pilots referred to it as the "wobblin goblin" due to early glitches in the computerized control system.

Check out the article "Fade to Black" http://www.afa.org/magazine/oct2006/1006black.asp [afa.org]

First the hard drive, now this.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#23148508)

How many things called "raptor" do I have to read about today?

Ben Rich's Book Highly Recommended (4, Informative)

Nom du Keyboard (633989) | more than 5 years ago | (#23148526)

If you enjoy this kind of thing, I can't recommend Ben Rich's book Skunk Works: A Personal Memoir of My Years of Lockheed highly enough.

Across the water (1)

eneville (745111) | more than 5 years ago | (#23148538)

The Su-37 is a pretty good plane too, I don't know why the USA doesn't outsource the development of the planes to Moscow since it's gotta be a cheaper work force. Really impressive, since USA and Rus are pretty much fighting terrorism rather than communism vs capitalism... Check out the vids on youtube, it's really impressive.
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