Retired F-117A Nighthawk Will Debut on Static Display at Reagan Defense Forum

Aircorps Art Dec 2019

The Lockheed F-117A Nighthawk, though long-since officially retired, still conjures the imagination, given its secretive nature and storied combat history as the world’s first true ‘stealth’ combat aircraft. While there are persistent rumors of a handful of the type still serving in secret as test airframes, most surviving examples are still mothballed in semi-dismantled storage, far from public view. Of the four Nighthawks currently on display, all are pre-preoduction YF-117s, which never saw combat. However, that is soon to change according to a press release from Lockheed Martin. F-117A 82-0803 will soon go on display at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Museum. This airframe reportedly flew 78 combat missions, more than any other examples of the breed…

PRESS RELEASE – Lockheed Martin and the Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation and Institute are partnering on a permanent static display for the F-117 Nighthawk that bears the nickname Unexpected Guest. The display will be debuted at a ribbon cutting ceremony during the Reagan National Defense Forum on Dec. 7.

The joint project referred to as Operation Nighthawk Landing was made possible by a permanent loan to the Reagan Foundation from the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force. To support the Air Force in their loan, the Lockheed Martin’s famed Skunk Works is restoring the aircraft in preparation for its permanent exhibition at the Reagan Library. The Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation and Institute is the nonprofit organization created by President Reagan himself and specifically charged by him with continuing his legacy and sharing his principles – individual liberty, economic opportunity, global democracy and national pride. The Foundation is a non-partisan organization which sustains the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Museum in Simi Valley, CA, the Reagan Center for Public Affairs, the Presidential Learning Center, The Air Force One Pavilion and the award-winning Discovery Center, as well as the Reagan Institute, which carries out the Foundation’s work in Washington, D.C. The Reagan Library houses over 55 million pages of Gubernatorial, Presidential and personal papers and over 60,000 gifts and artifacts chronicling the lives of Ronald and Nancy Reagan. It also serves as the final resting place of America’s 40th President and his First Lady.

The Air Force One Pavilion at the Reagan Library features two former presidential aircraft, including Boeing VC-137C 72-7000 on pylons, and a Sikorsky VH-3A Sea King Bu.150611. Each airframe served as Air Force One and Marine One respectively when a sitting president flew aboard them. President Reagan used both of these aircraft while he served in the White House.

“The F-117 Nighthawk reminds us of our country’s ability to rapidly develop disruptive technology critical to national security,” said Michele Evans, executive vice president of Lockheed Martin Aeronautics. “Lockheed Martin is proud to partner with the Air Force and the Reagan Foundation to install a permanent symbol of American innovation at the Reagan Library for all to see.”

Grumman F-14A Bu.162592 outside the Reagan Library. The aircraft is actually dressed up as F-14A Bu.160403, one of two VF-41 Tomcats from the USS Nimitz which each downed a Libyan Air Force Su-22 ‘Fitter’ during the Gulf of Sidra Incident on August 18th, 1981. The real Bu.160403, as it happens, is on display with the Commemorative Air Force’s High Sky Wing in Midland, Texas.

F-117 #803’s nickname Unexpected Guest alludes to the extreme secrecy that surrounded the F-117 Nighthawk program as well as the stealth aircraft’s ability to go undetected by enemy radar. This fitting nickname was inspired by the 1982 heavy metal album “Unexpected Guest” by the band Demon.

The F-117 Nighthawk’s fuselage under transport in front of Lockheed Martin’s famed Skunk Works research facility in Palmdale, California.

Developed in complete secrecy by Lockheed Martin Skunk Works, the F-117 was the world’s first operational stealth aircraft. Deemed impossible, it is a tangible reminder of what can be achieved through teamwork, passion and determination.


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