Stealth fighter headed for mothballs
DAYTON, Ohio — The world's first attack aircraft to employ stealth technology is slipping quietly into history. The inky black, angular, radar-evading F-117, which spent 27 years in the Air Force arsenal secretly patrolling hostile skies from Serbia to Iraq, will be put in mothballs next month in Nevada. Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Dayton, which manages the F-117 program, was to hold an informal, private retirement ceremony Tuesday with military leaders, base employees and representatives from Holloman Air Force Base in New Mexico.The last F-117s scheduled to fly will leave Holloman on April 21, stop in Palmdale, Calif., for another retirement ceremony, then arrive on April 22 at their final destination: Tonopah Test Range Airfield in Nevada, where the jet made its first flight in 1981. Fifty-nine F-117s were made; 10 were retired in December 2006 and 27 since then, the Air Force said. Seven have crashed. The government has no plans to bring the fighter out of retirement, but could do so if necessary. "I'm happy to hear they are putting it in a place where they could bring it back if they ever needed it," said Brig. Gen. Gregory Feest, the first person to fly an F-117. The Air Force decided to accelerate the retirement of the F-117s to free up funding to modernize the rest of the fleet. The F-117 is being replaced by the F-22 Raptor, which also has stealth technology.