Earlier this week, we showed you pictures a number of people uploaded onto social media of an F-117 Nighthawk (colloquially know to some as the “Stealth Fighter,” despite it being a horribly inaccurate nickname) flying some unusual maneuvers over Nevada, not far from the Nellis Test Range and the infamous Area 51.
The same day, either that same F-117 or possibly a different one was also spotted flying low over Death Valley National Park in eastern California. Fortunately, the Instagram account AirShowStuff managed to get some footage of the rare spectacle — and it is something to see.
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The F-117 LIVES!!! Friend of AirshowStuff Wayne Day just shared some awesome new video from Death Valley earlier today 2-27-19. They’ve been quite active lately. Please make sure to give credit if sharing! @combat_learjet @pilotstuff #f117 #stealthfighter #stealth #deathvalley #airshow #airshowstuff #stillkicking
While it’s not unheard of to see one of America’s F-117s sneak out of the hangar to stretch its legs, it is extremely uncommon. The platform, which was America’s first real foray into a combat operational stealth aircraft, was officially retired back in 2008, though they remain in what’s commonly referred to as “flying storage.” In other words, at least some of America’s 50 or so Nighthawks are maintained in operational condition, even as four or so air frames are dismantled every other year.
We previously postulated that this F-117 could be training for use as a low-observability aggressor aircraft, giving American pilots the opportunity to train to intercept stealth bombers or fighters being fielded by nations like Russia or China. It seems equally feasible that this aircraft may be getting one last romp in the mud before it gets fed to the proverbial wood chipper, as well — but that’s just not as much fun to imagine.