Lockheed F-117A Nighthawk

Updated: December 15, 2007

All in all, F-117 is not a very interesting aircraft; it's ugly and painted black. Still, it is thisĀ peculiar monotone, boxy ugliness that challenged me into making this model, trying to being its few colorful details to bear.

F-117 was designed in the late 70s as a stealth ground attack plane, intended to carry out deep penetration strikes against heavily-defended Soviet targets in Europe, which the conventional fighters were not expected to survive. It was meant to be subsonic, with low Radar Cross-Section (RCS) and capable of delivering pinpoint attacks.

The Nighthawk was christened in the Panama War, although such a minor conflict could hardly be called a rite of passage. The first real engagement was during the Gulf War, where the F-117s were sent against Iraqi bunkers and SAM sites.

F-117 is one of the most overrated combat platforms in the modern age, mainly thanks to the great secrecy surrounding its development and deployment and the popular fame it earned in books and movies, mistakenly called F-19. As the combat platform, F-117 did show some good results, mainly in Iraq, with good weather conditions and relatively no opposition from the inept and demoralized Iraqis. But it was brought to shame in the Kosovo War when it was shot by an SA-3 Goa - a 30-year-old missile platform.

F-117 was very useful in the early 90s, when only select few airplanes were equipped with guided weapons and night equipment. Today, its extremely high price, no ability to protect itself against aircraft, and limited range and maneuverability, make it mainly useful for the news hype and isolated attacks against an enemy with no air power. Regardless, the model itself proved to be great fun.


It was a 1/72 scaleĀ Italeri model, somewhat lacking in details, but this can be blamed on the plane itself.

F-117 has a striking profile. The faceted fuselage is the necessity of the stealth engineering, which requires that planes of an airplane (no pun intended) be smooth and straight, in order to reduce the backscatter of the radiation and reduce the chance of detection. For once, painting the model was not really exciting ...

F-117 iso

The little details that I could work were mainly around the weapons, carried in the internal bay, which explains the bulky ridge behind the cockpit - and the cockpit itself. Notice the meshes covering the engine intakes, designed to reduce the reflection of the turbine blades.

As always, Italeri shipped their model without the ability to lift the canopy, but this did not stop me. I fashioned the struts from surplus plastic chips from the frame holding the pieces and raised the canopy.

F-117 cockpit

F-117 nose

I armed the Nighthawk with a pair of Paveway III laser-guided bombs. I must admit I was not true to their coloring and striping. On the other hand, the patchwork of white shapes and the red strip toward the tail are authentic markings. I have no idea what their purpose is.

F-117 bomb bay

I also added the light strobes onto the wings, oh yes! Hint: the tail is not crooked, I shot this image from an angle and don't feel like MATLAB-ing it to perfection. But you can see the tiny red and green dots on the wings - strobe lights.

F-117 tail & strobe lights

The ugliness makes F-117 appear deceivingly small. In fact, it is a rather big aircraft. Here are a few shots, comparing it with F-15 (another model, featured in another gallery).

F-117 comparison with F-15 1

F-117 comparison with F-15 2

Well, that's all, I'm afraid. F-117 is not one of my finest models, but it complements the collection well, with its stark, monotone lack of beauty rivaling the shiny camouflages of some of my other models.

Dedoimedo out.

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