These are probably the first official photos of the (officially retired but still flying) F-117 since the type was retired some 13 years ago.
The first photographs along with a press release about the F-117 stealth jets deployment to California have eventually been published by the U.S. Air Force on the DVIDS (Defense Visual Information Distribution Service) network.
Although they don’t expose any relevant, new detail, the photos are extremely interesting as they are the first official images of the iconic Nighthawk aircraft published since the U.S. Air Force officially retired the type in 2008.
The accompanying press release, issued by the 144th Fighter Wing Public Affairs, also contains something worth of remark (highlighted in the quoted text below):
The 144th Fighter Wing welcomed the arrival of two F-117 Nighthawk aircraft Sept 13, 2021 to the Fresno Air National Guard Base, California, to conduct dissimilar air combat training missions.
U.S. Air Force Col. Troy Havener, 144th Fighter Wing commander, said, “We have the distinct honor of being the first Air Force unit to host them for a full week of training,” referencing the Wing’s deliberate partnership building efforts and their demonstrated operational proficiency as critical to securing the training opportunity.
Over the next few days the 144th FW’s F-15 pilots will conduct multiple dissimilar air combat training missions with the F-117 pilots.
“This week we reap the benefits of two plus years of careful communication and determined coordination with agencies and leaders overseeing these unique USAF assets,” said Havener. “The training against integrated forces that include the F-117 will challenge and sharpen pilots, as well as build confidence in tactics and systems needed to defend our nation.”
Lt. Col. David Allamandola, 144th FW Advanced Programs Officer said, “Our Griffin pilots, operations, and maintainers, are thrilled to be able to participate in this unique opportunity. It is a very special privilege to do open air training missions with the F-117 Nighthawks.”
“This training offers incredible value for everyone involved and presents new challenges to test difficult tactics in a realistic environment. Not everyone gets to do this, so it’s been exciting creating the ground work with our partners to make this a reality,” said Allamandola. “The enthusiasm is contagious. We are incredibly thankful to our guests for their tireless efforts over an extended period of time to make this a reality. It’s been fantastic to see this plan come together.”
This is the first time that F-117 Nighthawks have landed in Fresno. Their presence immediately received interest from multiple media outlets and some members of the community.
Although officially retired, many F-117s remain airworthy and are used to support limited research and training missions based on overall cost effectiveness and their ability to offer unique capabilities.
As of January 2021, the U.S. Air Force has 48 F-117s remaining in its inventory, and is disposing of approximately four aircraft each year. As airframes are disposed, they are offered to museums though the USAF Strategic Basing program and the National Museum of the USAF.
As already reported, the two F-117s, flying as KNIGHT01, arrived at Fresno Yosemite International Airport to carry out dissimilar air combat training with the local-based California Air National Guard F-15C/D Eagles, on Sept. 13, 2021. Before the official statement was published on Sept. 16, several images and clips, taken by aviation photographers had already shown the “Wobblin Goblin” at work over central California. The 144th FW itself had posted a video of the Nighthawk operating at Fresno on their FB page.