The aircraft was built under strict security by Lockheed Advanced
Development Company, known as the "Skunk Works". Initially developed
under a contract from the USAF and the Defense Advanced Research
Projects Agency (DARPA), under the program name HAVE BLUE.
Two aircraft, about one-third the size of the F-117A, were
built, with the first flying in december 1977. This first aircraft
crashed some six months later. The second aircraft first flew in June
1978. The second aircraft crashed about a year later. In November 1978
the The HAVE BLUE program was replaced by the SENIOR TREND program
authorizing five full-scale development aircraft. Thirty-one months
later, on 18 June 1981 the first F-117A aircraft flew. On 26 October
1983, the 4450 Tactical Group accepted its fourteenth F-117A and
achieved Initial Operational Capability. For the next six years the
unit's aircraft flew only after nightfall, eventually growing to three
squadrons with a total of more than fifty aircraft. The program
remained one of the best kept military secrets of all time. It was kept
under strict security, until the Department of Defense announced the
existence of the F-117A and released an extremely poor photo of the
aircraft on Nov 1988. On 22 April 1989, the Stealth Fighter made its
first public appearance at Nellis AFB, Nevada. The Air Force had
ordered 59 aircraft, the last was delivered 12 July 1990.
The F-117A first went to war in Operation JUST CAUSE, when two aircraft each dropped a bomb on targets in Panama on 19 December 1989. Deploying to the Persian Gulf in August 1990, the aircraft took part in Operation DESERT STORM beginning 17 Jan 1991. By the end of the air campaign, the F-117As had flown nearly 1300 sorties.
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