F-117 Nighthawk Stealth Fighter – An Illustrated Developmental History

Published on
April 25, 2023
Review Author(s)
Book Author(s)
Yancy D. Mailes and Tony R. Landis
Other Publication Information
: Softbound, A4 (8.5” x 11.5”), 113 pages, 295 color photographs and 28 drawings
Product / Stock #
Detail & Scale 8658
Company: Detail & Scale, Inc. - Website: Visit Site
Provided by: Detail & Scale, Inc. - Website: Visit Site

F-117 Nighthawk Stealth Fighter – An Illustrated Developmental History is a fantastic book on the development of this remarkable aircraft. There is no operational history nor combat-related photographs in this book. And it should not, nor does it, detract from the book. The development of stealth technology and this record-breaking aircraft deserves its own story. The aircraft and dedicated people that made it possible is brilliantly told and photographed in this book.

The book is presented with five chapters:

  • Introduction
  • The Search for LO (Low Observable)
  • Scorpion Test Team
  • Photographic History
  • More from Detail & Scale

This book covers the design and testing of one of the most revolutionary military aircraft. The Nighthawk was conceived in secrecy and served admirably before the public even knew of its existence. The goal was to employ an aircraft that could attack enemy high value targets before the enemy even knew they were there. Rather than rely on altitude or speed, like those aircraft that came before it, the design was to be stealthy and, while not invisible to radar, would have a RCS (Radar Cross Section) so small as to not be a threat.

Aircraft manufacturers and the Air Force had been investigating LO (Low Observable) technologies since the mid-1950s with T-33 and B-47 test beds. Under the direction of DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency), aerospace companies competed in the XST (Experimental Survivable Test) bed project in 1975. Lockheed and Northrop were invited to Phase 1 of the project to produce full-scale model demonstrators. Lockheed won and proceeded to Phase 2 for design, construction, and flight testing. The Air Force then changed the project name from XST to HAVE BLUE. Two aircraft were manufactured and tested: BLUE 01 and BLUE 02. While both airframes were lost during testing, the resulting aircraft was dubbed the F-117 Nighthawk and reached IOC (Initial Operational Capability) on 28 October 1983. This book gets into the history, background, location, and most importantly, the people responsible for this innovative and game changing aircraft.

F-117 Nighthawk Stealth Fighter – An Illustrated Developmental History is not an entirely new book. Authors Yancy D. Mailes and Tony R. Landis originally published this book in 2006 by Specialty Press (F-117 Nighthawk Stealth Fighter – Photo Scrapbook). Fortunately, fellow IPMS Reviewer, Anthony King (IPMS No. 37981) did a review, and the book was 108 pages with 250 color and 100 black and white photographs. I imagine the additional pages and photographs are included in the end of the book covering the Nighthawks retirement in 2007 and 2008, after the original book’s publication. The Air Force decided to keep 52 F-117s in storage at the Tonopah Test Range; fitting as it was its first base.

Brigadier General David L. Goldfein, commander of Holloman AFB’s 49th Fighter Wing presided over the retirement of the first six aircrafts’ last flight on 12 March 2007 stated,

“With the launch of these great aircraft today, the circle comes to a close – their service to our nation’s defense fulfilled, their mission accomplished and a job well done. We send them today to their final resting place – a home they are intimately familiar with – their first, and only, home outside of Holloman.”

With that, 64 Nighthawks (5 YF-117s and 59 F-117As), and 558 pilots, spanning a timeline dating back to the maiden flight in 1981 were destined for the history books.

Ironically, nearly 14 years after their retirement, some of the F-117A Nighthawks are in the air again with at least some to continue flying operations through 2034. The Nighthawks are being used for research and development, test and evaluation, training and as ‘red air’ aggressors. The F-117A still remains relevant and this book does a lot to highlight its developmental history and is a great resource for anyone wanting to build a Nighthawk model.

Henry Ford noted, “Any customer can have a car painted any color that he wants, so long as it is black.” This saying could be applied to the F-117 Nighthawk, yet it would only mainly be true. While there is no such thing as an entirely monotone black, the Nighthawks in this book also carry three colorful markings on their black aircraft, as well as a unique three color camouflage, and “Evening Shade” gray paint scheme.

I remember fondly looking up in the Tucson sky near Davis Monthan AFB almost two decades ago and seeing Aircraft 782 flying overhead with its American flag painted on the underside. The last of the Holloman AFB Nighthawks departed, making way for the F-22 Raptors when I moved to the area. One remains, resplendent in its black coat, at Holloman AFB’s Heritage Park.

I was fortunate to share breakfast with three gentlemen at the IPMS Nats in Omaha last year. Besides being affable modelers, I soon learned that they were Detail & Scale’s Bert Kinzey (President/Owner) and Rock Roszak (Vice President) They are amazing gentlemen, and while I am primarily an armor modeler, I was intrigued to learn more about their Detail & Scale. Their passion for aviation is evident throughout this book with photos from every angle and capturing the details modelers need for their aircraft. F-117 Nighthawk Stealth Fighter – An Illustrated Developmental History is a great example of their passionate work.

Profuse thanks to Detail & Scale (https://www.detailandscale.com/) and IPMS-USA for providing the review sample.


Add new comment

All comments are moderated to prevent spam

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.