Max Q
Topic Author
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Why did the F117 have a relatively short servive life ?

Wed Dec 05, 2018 3:52 am

The first stealth ‘fighter’ was only operational for a little over two decades


It’s success in action seemed to prove the concept and its effectiveness but then it
was retired at what appeared to be a very early stage in its life


Many military aircraft are in service for much longer (the F4 was operational for 50
years in the US)


So what happened with the F117, was its stealth design too ‘primitive’ to be effective as ground radar technology improved ?


Or was it so compromised after one was shot down and the wreckage ‘picked through’ by the other side that it could no longer be used in combat ?
The best contribution to safety is a competent Pilot.
 
RJMAZ
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Re: Why did the F117 have a relatively short servive life ?

Wed Dec 05, 2018 5:29 am

It actually wasn't that stealthy by todays standards. It also had poor situational awareness. Todays radar would pick up an F-117 quite some distance away.

Stealth design was improving very rapidly as computer software improved in the 90's. So when its main strength was stealth it quickly became out of date. For instance if they made the F-117 5 years later it would probably still be in front line service with a much lower radar cross section.
 
RetiredWeasel
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Re: Why did the F117 have a relatively short servive life ?

Wed Dec 05, 2018 5:35 am

RJMAZ reply sounds reasonable. I do take a little issue with your times though. The Phantom went operational with the navy in 1960. USAF retired it's last combat F-4 in 1997. That's only 37 years. Yes it flew as a drone and target for several more years, but wasn't combat coded. The F-117 lasted 25 years. A-7's lasted only 22 years...So I don't think the 117 was short lived.
 
Ozair
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Re: Why did the F117 have a relatively short servive life ?

Wed Dec 05, 2018 7:50 am

RJMAZ wrote:
It actually wasn't that stealthy by todays standards. It also had poor situational awareness. Todays radar would pick up an F-117 quite some distance away.

Stealth design was improving very rapidly as computer software improved in the 90's. So when its main strength was stealth it quickly became out of date. For instance if they made the F-117 5 years later it would probably still be in front line service with a much lower radar cross section.

I think it was less cross section and more about overall capability. The F-117 had no radar, no RWR, no MAWS and was a reasonably difficult aircraft to fly. It also didn't have a great safety record and required a decent amount of maintenance for its stealth coatings.

With the improvement across the fleet in PGM delivery, more effective cruise missiles and the arrival of the F-22 as well as its own shortcomings the aircraft was superseded.

Apparently most are still kept in near fly away storage in case they are needed again.
 
Max Q
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Re: Why did the F117 have a relatively short servive life ?

Wed Dec 05, 2018 8:06 am

RetiredWeasel wrote:
RJMAZ reply sounds reasonable. I do take a little issue with your times though. The Phantom went operational with the navy in 1960. USAF retired it's last combat F-4 in 1997. That's only 37 years. Yes it flew as a drone and target for several more years, but wasn't combat coded. The F-117 lasted 25 years. A-7's lasted only 22 years...So I don't think the 117 was short lived.



I stand corrected on the F4



What surprised me about the F117 was it
would be retired with no clear direct successor, would an F22 be used on similar
missions ?


And If they are considered obsolete then why are a number of them maintained ‘in case they’re needed’ ?
The best contribution to safety is a competent Pilot.
 
RJMAZ
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Re: Why did the F117 have a relatively short servive life ?

Wed Dec 05, 2018 8:18 am

Max Q wrote:
What surprised me about the F117 was it
would be retired with no clear direct successor, would an F22 be used on similar
missions ?


And If they are considered obsolete then why are a number of them maintained ‘in case they’re needed’ ?

Most aircraft were replaced wirh no direct successor but the mission is now being performed by multi role aircraft.

We no longer have 10 aircraft types with dedicated roles goinf into battle. By having multirole aircraft you can halve the number of aircraft to perform the same campaign.

The F-22 as a secondary role can do anything the F-117 did plus more.
 
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cpd
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Re: Why did the F117 have a relatively short servive life ?

Wed Dec 05, 2018 9:31 am

Ozair wrote:
RJMAZ wrote:
It actually wasn't that stealthy by todays standards. It also had poor situational awareness. Todays radar would pick up an F-117 quite some distance away.

Stealth design was improving very rapidly as computer software improved in the 90's. So when its main strength was stealth it quickly became out of date. For instance if they made the F-117 5 years later it would probably still be in front line service with a much lower radar cross section.

I think it was less cross section and more about overall capability. The F-117 had no radar, no RWR, no MAWS and was a reasonably difficult aircraft to fly. It also didn't have a great safety record and required a decent amount of maintenance for its stealth coatings.

With the improvement across the fleet in PGM delivery, more effective cruise missiles and the arrival of the F-22 as well as its own shortcomings the aircraft was superseded.

Apparently most are still kept in near fly away storage in case they are needed again.


Oh? Hard to fly - did you fly one?

As for "apparently ... kept in near fly away storage", you've seen the videos and photos of them flying recently, right?

As for the OP's question - it really is a fairly old plane and the design is primitive because of the limits of computer power in determining the best shape back at those days.

Max Q wrote:
What surprised me about the F117 was it
would be retired with no clear direct successor, would an F22 be used on similar
missions ?


Maybe there is a successor aircraft. They certainly wouldn't go public with such an aircraft.
 
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Mortyman
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Re: Why did the F117 have a relatively short servive life ?

Wed Dec 05, 2018 9:41 am

cpd wrote:

As for "apparently ... kept in near fly away storage", you've seen the videos and photos of them flying recently, right?




Actually yes:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M1zwzJqIAjw

and 2018:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BZBfOmZACNM
 
Ozair
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Re: Why did the F117 have a relatively short servive life ?

Wed Dec 05, 2018 11:01 am

cpd wrote:

Oh? Hard to fly - did you fly one?

Had I known it would have caused you so much angst I would have added "reportedly".

As for its flying qualities, "apparently" it was reasonably stable (after some issues with early frames) but received the nickname wobbly goblin because it was unrecoverable once it departed controlled flight.

With low wing loading and G limits comparable to that of the F-4, the F-117 reportedly handles well. The widely publicized nickname “Wobbly Goblin” apparently derives from its “departure” characteristics–once out of control, it cannot be recovered.

http://www.historynet.com/stealth-secre ... eature.htm

cpd wrote:
As for "apparently ... kept in near fly away storage", you've seen the videos and photos of them flying recently, right?

I have, but seeing one or a couple of aircraft fly around IVO Groom Lake is different to maintaining the whole fleet to that standard.

Unlike most other Air Force aircraft that are retired to Davis-Monthan AFB for scrapping, or dispersal to museums, most of the F-117s were placed in "Type 1000" storage[73] in their original hangars at the Tonopah Test Range Airport.[53] At Tonopah, their wings were removed and the aircraft are stored in their original climate-controlled hangars.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lockheed_F-117_Nighthawk

Based on the above, I think my use of the word "most" is justified.
 
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Dutchy
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Re: Why did the F117 have a relatively short servive life ?

Wed Dec 05, 2018 1:41 pm

cpd wrote:
Max Q wrote:
What surprised me about the F117 was it
would be retired with no clear direct successor, would an F22 be used on similar
missions ?


Maybe there is a successor aircraft. They certainly wouldn't go public with such an aircraft.


Aren't cruise missiles the direct successors for the F-117 mission? The F-117 could only carry two bombs.
Many happy landings, greetings from The Netherlands!
 
bigjku
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Re: Why did the F117 have a relatively short servive life ?

Wed Dec 05, 2018 2:32 pm

Dutchy wrote:
cpd wrote:
Max Q wrote:
What surprised me about the F117 was it
would be retired with no clear direct successor, would an F22 be used on similar
missions ?


Maybe there is a successor aircraft. They certainly wouldn't go public with such an aircraft.


Aren't cruise missiles the direct successors for the F-117 mission? The F-117 could only carry two bombs.


Not really. They had cruise missiles concurrent with the f-117. They do different things. The missions of the F-117 would be picked up by F-22 and B-2’s or now by the F-35.

Air delivered bombs and cruise missiles have some target set overlap but also some unique ones as well. In particular I suspect the F-117’s were kept in a flyable state because the F-22 and B-2 didn’t have laser designators for extreme precision targets. LGB and JDAM even have different uses so it had not been replaced. The F-35 going into full service should eliminate any need to keep them around.
 
estorilm
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Re: Why did the F117 have a relatively short servive life ?

Wed Dec 05, 2018 3:20 pm

Ozair wrote:
cpd wrote:

Oh? Hard to fly - did you fly one?

Had I known it would have caused you so much angst I would have added "reportedly".

As for its flying qualities, "apparently" it was reasonably stable (after some issues with early frames) but received the nickname wobbly goblin because it was unrecoverable once it departed controlled flight.

With low wing loading and G limits comparable to that of the F-4, the F-117 reportedly handles well. The widely publicized nickname “Wobbly Goblin” apparently derives from its “departure” characteristics–once out of control, it cannot be recovered.

http://www.historynet.com/stealth-secre ... eature.htm

cpd wrote:
As for "apparently ... kept in near fly away storage", you've seen the videos and photos of them flying recently, right?

I have, but seeing one or a couple of aircraft fly around IVO Groom Lake is different to maintaining the whole fleet to that standard.

Unlike most other Air Force aircraft that are retired to Davis-Monthan AFB for scrapping, or dispersal to museums, most of the F-117s were placed in "Type 1000" storage[73] in their original hangars at the Tonopah Test Range Airport.[53] At Tonopah, their wings were removed and the aircraft are stored in their original climate-controlled hangars.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lockheed_F-117_Nighthawk

Based on the above, I think my use of the word "most" is justified.

Its range and profile were not ideal either - an F-22 is stealther, has similar range, and can defend itself - also able to get on target quicker. A B2 has a massive range advantage, can loiter on station if there are targeting changes or adjustments, and (as routinely happens) are deployed from much safer bases - they don't require extensive refueling or a forward base.

It was a great plane for its time, but it was a massive compromise in many different respects as has been noted above. I don't think it does anything better than the other options listed above - maintenance is probably more expensive and as Ozair mentioned, I've also heard from many different sources that it's not exactly "fun" to fly.

The only argument for their use today is just simply the fact that "we have them" - the F-35 is REALLY the final nail in the coffin though - with so many out there and the huge advantage in payload, stealth, defensive capability, and even range.. (plus, possibly even cheaper operating costs!) it's really basically done.

It was a pivotal stepping stone for new technologies and capabilities though. Look at early jets for example - they were eclipsed constantly but the early ones were always the most important historically.

The 'wobblin goblin will forever remain one of the great engineering feats of aviation, VERY similar to the USS Nautilus IMHO.
 
DigitalSea
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Re: Why did the F117 have a relatively short servive life ?

Wed Dec 05, 2018 3:54 pm

cpd wrote:

Maybe there is a successor aircraft. They certainly wouldn't go public with such an aircraft.


That's right - we don't have a black budget that swallows billions and billions of dollars every year for nothing. People forget that the Nazis were able to achieve many advances in aerospace over a relatively short period of time. The US has had more than half a century to R&D to its heart's desire (especially at the height of the Cold War). I believe there is a substantial amount still left behind the curtain relative to what's been declassified. Usually when public projects are deemed too expensive to go forward with, it's swept under the black project carpet where public scrutiny isn't a problem. Think about the XB-70 (1964) & X-15 (1959), it's not like we hit those milestones and didn't do anything with it for the last 40+ years.
 
tjh8402
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Re: Why did the F117 have a relatively short servive life ?

Fri Dec 07, 2018 4:19 am

cpd wrote:
Ozair wrote:
RJMAZ wrote:
It actually wasn't that stealthy by todays standards. It also had poor situational awareness. Todays radar would pick up an F-117 quite some distance away.

Stealth design was improving very rapidly as computer software improved in the 90's. So when its main strength was stealth it quickly became out of date. For instance if they made the F-117 5 years later it would probably still be in front line service with a much lower radar cross section.

I think it was less cross section and more about overall capability. The F-117 had no radar, no RWR, no MAWS and was a reasonably difficult aircraft to fly. It also didn't have a great safety record and required a decent amount of maintenance for its stealth coatings.

With the improvement across the fleet in PGM delivery, more effective cruise missiles and the arrival of the F-22 as well as its own shortcomings the aircraft was superseded.

Apparently most are still kept in near fly away storage in case they are needed again.


Oh? Hard to fly - did you fly one?

As for "apparently ... kept in near fly away storage", you've seen the videos and photos of them flying recently, right?

As for the OP's question - it really is a fairly old plane and the design is primitive because of the limits of computer power in determining the best shape back at those days.

Max Q wrote:
What surprised me about the F117 was it
would be retired with no clear direct successor, would an F22 be used on similar
missions ?


Maybe there is a successor aircraft. They certainly wouldn't go public with such an aircraft.


The F-35 is the F-117s replacement. It can do everything the F117 could plus a whole lot more. That’s one reason the F-35 was designed for internal carriage of 2k lb bombs (which the F-22 can’t do); the AF wanted a stealth aircraft with that capability besides the B-2.
 
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cpd
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Re: Why did the F117 have a relatively short servive life ?

Fri Dec 07, 2018 10:20 am

tjh8402 wrote:
The F-35 is the F-117s replacement. It can do everything the F117 could plus a whole lot more. That’s one reason the F-35 was designed for internal carriage of 2k lb bombs (which the F-22 can’t do); the AF wanted a stealth aircraft with that capability besides the B-2.


Yes, I'm aware of what the F35 can do, I got a pretty decent overview on that a little while back. A bit more than I expected and a few answers I didn't think I'd get. Anyhow, that's not for this discussion. I think it just shows how old the F117A is.

Did something else also fly alongside the F117A at around the time of the first Gulf War (also stealth)? And does it still operate now, or has it also gone into hibernation?
 
parapente
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Re: Why did the F117 have a relatively short servive life ?

Fri Dec 07, 2018 12:17 pm

Do we 'know' I mean really know -not just what they say - when it really went into operational service.As I recall it suddenly appeared -burst upon the scene in the first Gulf war.But ( like stealth) seemed to come out of no where.
Is there some super fast Spy plane that took over from the Blackbirds sudden retirement.Probably,but we will only ever know if they decide to tell us or one crashes/shot down (Powers).
Secrets are supposed to stay that way. That's why they are secrets!
 
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cpd
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Re: Why did the F117 have a relatively short servive life ?

Fri Dec 07, 2018 1:06 pm

parapente wrote:
Do we 'know' I mean really know -not just what they say - when it really went into operational service.As I recall it suddenly appeared -burst upon the scene in the first Gulf war.But ( like stealth) seemed to come out of no where.
Is there some super fast Spy plane that took over from the Blackbirds sudden retirement.Probably,but we will only ever know if they decide to tell us or one crashes/shot down (Powers).
Secrets are supposed to stay that way. That's why they are secrets!


First operations were in Panama IIRC. That we know of anyway.
 
estorilm
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Re: Why did the F117 have a relatively short servive life ?

Fri Dec 07, 2018 1:39 pm

cpd wrote:
tjh8402 wrote:
The F-35 is the F-117s replacement. It can do everything the F117 could plus a whole lot more. That’s one reason the F-35 was designed for internal carriage of 2k lb bombs (which the F-22 can’t do); the AF wanted a stealth aircraft with that capability besides the B-2.


Yes, I'm aware of what the F35 can do, I got a pretty decent overview on that a little while back. A bit more than I expected and a few answers I didn't think I'd get. Anyhow, that's not for this discussion. I think it just shows how old the F117A is.

Did something else also fly alongside the F117A at around the time of the first Gulf War (also stealth)? And does it still operate now, or has it also gone into hibernation?

The B-1B is an aircraft many people tend to forget about - it's mission profile has become "mushy" over the years.. doing many things that a variety of aircraft also do, but not exactly doing any of them perfectly.
It does have great range and payload though, and survivability is also very good (including terrain-following capability, semi-stealth, and speed - for which it has no match when payload and range are considered).
Not exactly stealth in the modern sense (and many hundreds of times larger than the F-117 RCS-wise) - but it's also about 100 times smaller than a B-52 from what I recall. Combined with low-level penetration, that does make it formidable.

But no - to answer your question, there was nothing that could achieve true impunity in the days of the Gulf War like the F-117 (which is why we built it).
 
DigitalSea
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Re: Why did the F117 have a relatively short servive life ?

Fri Dec 07, 2018 3:54 pm

There exists a classified EA platform, yes. The USAF is looking to move away from this in the future and integrate the technology into future Bomber/Strike platforms.
 
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Spacepope
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Re: Why did the F117 have a relatively short servive life ?

Sat Dec 08, 2018 6:21 am

Coincidentally this showed up today. Front line service live of just 2 years. Total service life of 4. Puts things in perspective
The last of the famous international playboys
 
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Dutchy
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Re: Why did the F117 have a relatively short servive life ?

Sat Dec 08, 2018 10:12 am

DigitalSea wrote:
There exists a classified EA platform, yes.


What do you mean with this?
Many happy landings, greetings from The Netherlands!
 
Planeflyer
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Re: Why did the F117 have a relatively short servive life ?

Mon Dec 10, 2018 1:56 pm

I’m guessing the 1 st gen LO coatings were also a maintenance nightmare.

The f117 proved out the concept so well in the gulf war the services decided to go all in and build the F35.

I imagine W the end of the Cold War the F117 became a luxury.
 
Scorpius
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Re: Why did the F117 have a relatively short servive life ?

Mon Dec 10, 2018 2:19 pm

I think the answer is simple - F117 was a failed development. The attempt to focus on stealth technology was too rash - it was not necessary to neglect the aerodynamics of the machine, which should fly. Also, the F117 was quite low level of technology-an example of that: the crash at the air show in 1997 year. The cause of the disaster was that the technicians forgot to tighten a few bolts located in a place with inconvenient access and require a lot of effort to fix them. As a result, in flight at F117 was the destruction of the wing.
 
GDB
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Re: Why did the F117 have a relatively short servive life ?

Mon Dec 10, 2018 5:46 pm

estorilm wrote:
cpd wrote:
tjh8402 wrote:
The F-35 is the F-117s replacement. It can do everything the F117 could plus a whole lot more. That’s one reason the F-35 was designed for internal carriage of 2k lb bombs (which the F-22 can’t do); the AF wanted a stealth aircraft with that capability besides the B-2.


Yes, I'm aware of what the F35 can do, I got a pretty decent overview on that a little while back. A bit more than I expected and a few answers I didn't think I'd get. Anyhow, that's not for this discussion. I think it just shows how old the F117A is.

Did something else also fly alongside the F117A at around the time of the first Gulf War (also stealth)? And does it still operate now, or has it also gone into hibernation?

The B-1B is an aircraft many people tend to forget about - it's mission profile has become "mushy" over the years.. doing many things that a variety of aircraft also do, but not exactly doing any of them perfectly.
It does have great range and payload though, and survivability is also very good (including terrain-following capability, semi-stealth, and speed - for which it has no match when payload and range are considered).
Not exactly stealth in the modern sense (and many hundreds of times larger than the F-117 RCS-wise) - but it's also about 100 times smaller than a B-52 from what I recall. Combined with low-level penetration, that does make it formidable.

But no - to answer your question, there was nothing that could achieve true impunity in the days of the Gulf War like the F-117 (which is why we built it).


At the 1987 Paris Show, a B-1B was displayed, in the static park alongside all the displays about the usual stats, they showed the RCS of the B-1B being much smaller than that of a Cessna 172, with then recent events in Red Square in mind no doubt.
Wonder what the Soviet's at the show made of that!
 
DigitalSea
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Re: Why did the F117 have a relatively short servive life ?

Mon Dec 10, 2018 8:14 pm

Dutchy wrote:
What do you mean with this?


While it sounds counter intuitive, it's possible to have a LO EA platform that is dedicated to overwhelming enemy air defenses. Technology has matured since then and existing aircraft are able to utilize some of those capabilities. The B-21 will be a continuation of that trend.
 
estorilm
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Re: Why did the F117 have a relatively short servive life ?

Mon Dec 10, 2018 9:59 pm

GDB wrote:
estorilm wrote:
cpd wrote:

Yes, I'm aware of what the F35 can do, I got a pretty decent overview on that a little while back. A bit more than I expected and a few answers I didn't think I'd get. Anyhow, that's not for this discussion. I think it just shows how old the F117A is.

Did something else also fly alongside the F117A at around the time of the first Gulf War (also stealth)? And does it still operate now, or has it also gone into hibernation?

The B-1B is an aircraft many people tend to forget about - it's mission profile has become "mushy" over the years.. doing many things that a variety of aircraft also do, but not exactly doing any of them perfectly.
It does have great range and payload though, and survivability is also very good (including terrain-following capability, semi-stealth, and speed - for which it has no match when payload and range are considered).
Not exactly stealth in the modern sense (and many hundreds of times larger than the F-117 RCS-wise) - but it's also about 100 times smaller than a B-52 from what I recall. Combined with low-level penetration, that does make it formidable.

But no - to answer your question, there was nothing that could achieve true impunity in the days of the Gulf War like the F-117 (which is why we built it).


At the 1987 Paris Show, a B-1B was displayed, in the static park alongside all the displays about the usual stats, they showed the RCS of the B-1B being much smaller than that of a Cessna 172, with then recent events in Red Square in mind no doubt.
Wonder what the Soviet's at the show made of that!

Yup - from a mission capabilities standpoint I think it's a stellar aircraft, again considering it was developed during the cold war as an "exotic" option. Its' conventional capabilities are really impressive - not quite as risky as sending out a B2 or something. I think they're typically to be forward-deployed unlike the B2 as well?

Wish we'd use them a little more often. A few B1-Bs with F-22 escort would be an impressive penetration group. I suppose *sigh* an F-35 would probably perform that role even better if there was a low A2A risk.
 
tjh8402
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Re: Why did the F117 have a relatively short servive life ?

Tue Dec 11, 2018 12:20 am

estorilm wrote:
GDB wrote:
estorilm wrote:
The B-1B is an aircraft many people tend to forget about - it's mission profile has become "mushy" over the years.. doing many things that a variety of aircraft also do, but not exactly doing any of them perfectly.
It does have great range and payload though, and survivability is also very good (including terrain-following capability, semi-stealth, and speed - for which it has no match when payload and range are considered).
Not exactly stealth in the modern sense (and many hundreds of times larger than the F-117 RCS-wise) - but it's also about 100 times smaller than a B-52 from what I recall. Combined with low-level penetration, that does make it formidable.

But no - to answer your question, there was nothing that could achieve true impunity in the days of the Gulf War like the F-117 (which is why we built it).


At the 1987 Paris Show, a B-1B was displayed, in the static park alongside all the displays about the usual stats, they showed the RCS of the B-1B being much smaller than that of a Cessna 172, with then recent events in Red Square in mind no doubt.
Wonder what the Soviet's at the show made of that!

Yup - from a mission capabilities standpoint I think it's a stellar aircraft, again considering it was developed during the cold war as an "exotic" option. Its' conventional capabilities are really impressive - not quite as risky as sending out a B2 or something. I think they're typically to be forward-deployed unlike the B2 as well?

Wish we'd use them a little more often. A few B1-Bs with F-22 escort would be an impressive penetration group. I suppose *sigh* an F-35 would probably perform that role even better if there was a low A2A risk.


the B-1 has seen plenty of action. They’ve been a CAS workhorse throughout the WoT and conflict with ISIS and were the primary strike aircraft in the cruise missile barrage against Syria (with F-15 and EA-6B escort). They’ve been a regular in the sabre rattling against North Korea. I would imagine the escorts they will probably need the most going forward are EA-18s, F-35s, and F-16CJs.
 
iamlucky13
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Re: Why did the F117 have a relatively short servive life ?

Tue Dec 11, 2018 4:22 am

cpd wrote:
Maybe there is a successor aircraft. They certainly wouldn't go public with such an aircraft.


Why do you think that?

The F-117 not being publicly revealed until 7 years after first flight is the exception, not the norm, to the best of our knowledge, unless the DoD is successfully holding projects secret for decades. But even some of their most secret projects for which few details were acknowledged for decades afterwards like the Keyhole satellites and Project Azorian, their existance was recognized far earlier.

Other examples:

The B-2 was revealed several months before first flight:
https://www.nytimes.com/1988/11/29/busi ... ealth.html

The SR-71 was revealed around the same time as first flight.

Not many technical details were provided about either of them, but their existence was known.

The F-22 and F-35 were obviously publicly known years before the designs were even confirmed. The B-21 is years from EIS, but that the program exists has been public record for several years already, and while details are being kept more secret than the F-22 and F-35, the Air Force has suggested by the artwork they've released that it will be a flying wing like the B-2.
 
DigitalSea
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Re: Why did the F117 have a relatively short servive life ?

Tue Dec 11, 2018 4:51 pm

iamlucky13 wrote:

Why do you think that?



Because it's in the interest of national security, as is anything that remains classified.
 
iamlucky13
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Re: Why did the F117 have a relatively short servive life ?

Tue Dec 11, 2018 8:48 pm

DigitalSea wrote:
iamlucky13 wrote:

Why do you think that?



Because it's in the interest of national security, as is anything that remains classified.


The fact that is of national security interest in no way substantiates the argument that the classification of a program means nobody knows about it. There is no concrete evidence that any major program is kept truly secret for more than a few years after being ready for use, and I'm probably being generous in keeping open the possibility of major programs making it even that long as complete secrets.

Capabilities are usually kept secret, but the fact that a piece of equipment exists to serve a certain role seems to inevitably get disclosed, or at a bare minimum discovered or leaked. Even the F-117 was known about before it was publicly unveiled, and I can track public acknowledgement about the effort to develop it back to at least a year before it flew (Washington Post, 9/6/80).

For another example, our reconnaissance satellites are about as secret as anything historically ever has been, but even despite the government's refusal to acknowledge them for decades, amateur observers made a hobby of tracking their launches, discovering their orbits, and identifying their likely functions and features based on everything from what purposes their orbits would be ideal for (sun-synchronous is good for imaging, for example) to the size of the shipping containing used to deliver them to the launch site. I've even seen notional drawings of some satellites that, when they were declassified over 30 years after first flying, turned out to be surprisingly accurate.

And while they didn't formally acknowledge their existence, US intelligence officials recognized our potential adversaries knew far more about the programs than the amateurs did.

This declassified paper dating back to 1962, for example, basically says the Soviets knew at least as much about our imaging satellites as was already being discussed in the press and in technical journals.
https://nsarchive2.gwu.edu/NSAEBB/NSAEBB225/doc16.pdf

Only 3 years into the history of a program that wasn't declassified for another 30 years, the NRO was already discussing internally the fact that their secret wasn't a secret.

An excerpt in the paper references SAMOS, one of the early spy satellites that actually pioneered the technology used by the Lunar Orbiter Program that later enabled NASA to pick their landing sites for the Apollo Program. Here's an example of two quotes they documented from US media sources:

"The SAMOS system is schedule to become operative in 1962. the plan is to put a number of these spy satellites into a polar orbit to keep the territory of the USSR and the other Socialist countries under constant surveillance."

"SAMOS II was launched on 31 January 1961. However, the astellite's (sic) equipment worked for only two weeks and its capsule with photographic equipment could not be returned to earth


The system was actually already operative, and film return via separable re-entry capsules was actually a feature of CORONA, not SAMOS, which developed the film automatically aboard the satellite and transmitted an image to the ground via a TV signal. Civilians may not have successfully correlated program names to specific vehicles, but they knew at least some of the techniques used, such that it was newsworthy when a spy satellite that was being tracked by amateurs had not been observed to release a re-entry capsule to perform a film return.

So as a followup, I don't ask again for reasons to believe in such an aircraft, but rather assert it is overwhelmingly unlikely a completely unknown successor to the F-117 exists.
 
DigitalSea
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Re: Why did the F117 have a relatively short servive life ?

Tue Dec 11, 2018 10:05 pm

iamlucky13 wrote:
So as a followup, I don't ask again for reasons to believe in such an aircraft, but rather assert it is overwhelmingly unlikely a completely unknown successor to the F-117 exists.


A successor to the F-117? Agreed, it's role has easily been absorbed by the F-35.
 
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Spacepope
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Re: Why did the F117 have a relatively short servive life ?

Wed Dec 12, 2018 2:22 am

DigitalSea wrote:
iamlucky13 wrote:

Why do you think that?



Because it's in the interest of national security, as is anything that remains classified.

Could be, just like why we haven’t seen a bin laden raid helicopter revealed yet except from the wreckage...
The last of the famous international playboys
 
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Dutchy
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Re: Why did the F117 have a relatively short servive life ?

Wed Dec 12, 2018 11:56 am

Spacepope wrote:
DigitalSea wrote:
iamlucky13 wrote:

Why do you think that?



Because it's in the interest of national security, as is anything that remains classified.

Could be, just like why we haven’t seen a bin laden raid helicopter revealed yet except from the wreckage...


Yup, so we know there is at least one craft out there which is still a black operational airplane. Makes you wonder what they have more. My guess a mach 3plus, stealth UAV for strategic reconnaissance.
Many happy landings, greetings from The Netherlands!
 
iamlucky13
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Re: Why did the F117 have a relatively short servive life ?

Wed Dec 12, 2018 11:22 pm

Dutchy wrote:
Spacepope wrote:
DigitalSea wrote:

Because it's in the interest of national security, as is anything that remains classified.

Could be, just like why we haven’t seen a bin laden raid helicopter revealed yet except from the wreckage...


Yup, so we know there is at least one craft out there which is still a black operational airplane. Makes you wonder what they have more. My guess a mach 3plus, stealth UAV for strategic reconnaissance.


It still fits the general trend - a very limited number of examples of an existing design are a lot different than a completely new design.

The stealth reconnaissance UAV exists, by the way. It is called the RQ-170, and it is not supersonic.

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