© Lockheed Martin


SIMI VALLEY, CALIFORNIA – The Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation and Insitute and National Museum of the USAF partners with Lockheed Martin’s Skunk Works by reconfiguring a F-117 Nighthawk with registration TR803 – nicknamed Unexpected Guest – for permanent display at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, CA. It’s great to see that such an iconic aircraft is being preserved for the public.

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Beautiful video of the iconic Lockheed F-117 Nighthawk being reconfigured. Video: Lockheed Martin on YouTube

Lockheed F-117 Nighthawk

When you think of iconic warplanes of the past, your first thoughts may be going out to the beautiful Mustang in WWII or the fierce Phantom in the Vietnam War. But the remarkable Lockheed F-117 Nighthawk is definetely a warplane that many avgeeks around the world will remember. During the Gulf War, the F-117 played a very important and specific role as the first stealth attack aircraft ever to be used in a war situation.

The Lockheed F-117 Nighthawk is a retired American single-seat, twin-engine stealth attack aircraft, developed by Lockheed’s secretive Skunk Works division and operated by the U.S. Air Force (USAF). The F-117 was based on the Lockheed Have Blue, a stealth demonstrator which made its first flight on December 1, 1977.

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Skunkworks’ Director Flight Operations and Chief Test Pilot Hal Farley shares declassified info in this video about the first flight of the YF-117A, advanced stealth technology, Area 51. Video: Harold Farley on YouTube

The Have Blue paved the way for the F-117: the first operational aircraft with stealth technology. Its maiden flight took place in 1981 at Groom Lake, Nevada, and the Nighthawk achieved initial operating capability status in 1983. The Nighthawk was shrouded in secrecy until it was revealed in 1988. 64 F-117s were built of which 59 were production versions, the other 5 were prototypes.

Lockheed Have Blue prototype in 1977. Photo: USAF

As mentioned earlier, the F-117 became famous for its role in the Persian Gulf War of 1991. The Nighthawk was not used as a stealth fighter though, it was used strictly as a ground-attack aircraft. In the 90s the F-117s also took part in the conflict in Yugoslavia, where one was shot down by a surface-to-air missile (SAM) in 1999. The shot down F-117 was the only Nighthawk to be lost in combat.

The iconic F-117 Nighthawk was retired by the USAF in 2008, primarily due to the fielding of the F-22 Raptor and probably to help pay for the F-35.

Skunk Works

Skunk Works is an official pseudonym for Lockheed Martin’s Advanced Development Programs (ADP), formerly kown as Lockheed Advanced Development Projects. The name Skunk Works was taken from the moonshine factory in the comic strip Li’l Abner.

The development program is responsible for some of the most iconic aircraft designs, including the Lockheed U-2 Dragon Lady, the Lockheed SR-71 Blackbird, the Lockheed F-117 Nighthawk, the Lockheed Martin F-22 Raptor, and the Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II. The F-35 is the only aircraft used in the air forces of other countries than the U.S.

Ronald Reagan Presidential Library

The Ronald Reagan Presidential Library is the repository of presidential records from the Ronald Reagan administration – 40th President of the United States – and the burial place of the President and First Lady, Nancy Reagan. It’s the largest of the 13 federally operated presidential libraries, containing millions of documents, photos, films and tapes.

Former President Ronald Reagan and his wife pose on November 4, 1991 with the president at that time, President George Bush and his wife, and with the former presidents and first ladies in the replica of the Oval Office at the Dedication of the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library. Photo: National Archives and Records Administration

There is a permanent exhibit at the Library covering the President Reagan’s life, as well as memorabilia such as Air Force One – the President’s aircraft – but also a section of masonry from the Berlin Wall.

An impressive collage of the Air Force One Pavillion at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library. Photo: Jrcrin001 (CC BY 3.0)

The library was designed by Hugh Stubbins and Associates and it’s administered by the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA).

A Grumman F-14 Tomcat on display at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library
: Lisa Barnum (CC BY-SA 3.0)

The Ronald Reagan Presidential Library is certainly worth a visit when you are in the area of Simi Valley, in Southern California.


(Head image: Lockheed Martin)

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