- 2010. április 19.
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"In 2017, and not publiced by any other open source so far, Scramble received very reliable information that at least four F-117s were deployed to the Middle East as an operational need emerged for the USAF to resurrect the Stealth F-117 for special purposes. One of the deployed aircraft was involved in an in-flight emergency and landed far away from its temporary homebase that was likely located in Saudi Arabia, the UAE or Qatar. During this extremely covert deployment the four Nighthawks flew missions above Syria an Iraq with Small Diameter Bombs (SDBs)."
"Our F-117 Nighthawk scoop continues!
Following our F-117 report from 2 March 2019 , that was published at our social media SFN and that went viral all over the world, we can now publish additional information.
Although (and of course) we will not reveal our sources, the following information has never been shared before (except for our Scramble magazine hardcopy - issue 479 - that was published yesterday).
Recent years have seen some peculiar facts related to the Operation Inherent Resolve (OIR), the combined operation to defeat ISIS/ Daesh, in and over Iraq and Syria. This operation was largely manned and staffed by USAF personnel, but allied nations were invited to join the operation. During the OIR heydays some 36 countries were involved.
Scramble has spoken to former OIR members (originating from at least two other countries than USA) and we can reveal that one F-117A made an emergency landing at the airbase of Ali Al Salem (AAS) in Kuwait during Q4/2016 (AAS is known as the nearest allied fixed wing airfield south of Iraq).
Ever since the beginning of being used by the US and allies, Ali Al Salem is renowned because of its secret spaces and hide-outs. This can evidently be seen on Google Earth. The above mentioned facts are (were) possibly the reasons for using AAS as a Nighthawk alternate or emergency landing base.
During the aforementioned landing, which occurred during dawn, the unfortunate Nighthawk was accompanied by its wingman. The latter did not land at AAS, but continued its route to its deployment base. This scene was seen by some lucky OIR personnel. One of these personnel managed to make a poor quality long distance iPhone-picture of the (chase) landing of the two birds followed by the broken aircraft standing at one of the tarmacs of AAS. Without any doubt, this was at AAS, as infrastructure characteristics and then deployed aircraft to AAS were clearly identified together with the broken F-117A.
We reported earlier about the Small Diameter Bombs (SDB) in combination with the Nighthawk missions. These weapons were possibly used in deliberate (moving) targeting, in that way the US could minimize casualties during their undisclosed missions deep into Syria in which other US aircraft were not selected (not even stealthy F-22s, maybe because it was too sensitive to send an expensive Raptor that deep into Assads territory). As the F-117s possibly returned due to unfinished business, the Nighthawks were also used over the densely populated Mosul area (with narrow streets and fortified bunkers) during the Battle of Mosul.
This sometimes very technical targeting, in combination with stealth (not necessary in Iraq) and slow speed, was something an F-22, F-15, B-1, B-52 and F-16 were not capable of doing.
As for the SDBs .... this is somewhat questionable if the F-117 indeed used this very smart and precise weapon. As far as we know, the one one seven was never certified for use of this weapon. Maybe that information is incorrect and like the way it goes... not all brands of Cola are Coca Cola, but many people order it like that. As the SDB was the weapon of choice in OIR, a verdict is done quite quickly. But .... there is also a possibiliy the F-117 was certified to use SDBs during their secretive test flights from Tonopah. And that makes also sence, as the stand-off range of an SDB is limited (some 60 miles), the stealth F-117s could fly closer to their targets in Assad territory - heavily guarded by a massive belt of air defense systems - do drop their weapons on a target.
As for the quantity of F-117As deployed. We have been told that there were at least four aircraft involved. The deployment base was most probably in Qatar or Saudi Arabia. We can confirm that they flew only during nighttime and strikingly, they used call sign: HELI. This name was most probably chosen as HELI gave less attention in the Air Tasking Order (ATO) of OIR that is observed by many military. As known, several (secretive) helicopter operations also took place throughout the whole OIR area of operations. Strikingly, the F-117 flight through Death Valley used LEHI as call-sign.
For now, with the vanishing of most terrorists (ISIS) from Iraqi and Syrian territory, it seems that the USAF found, once again, an opportunity to show the Nighthawk in the open. Flying low and slow buzzing Death Valley, with even a waving pilot in its office, the pilot knew he and his fantastic aircraft were watched and photographed by some very lucky people!
An educated guess of Scramble is that these out-in-the-open flights possibly could mean (again, it is just an educated guess) that the test-flights of the F-117s are ended and this was a kind of an unofficial farewell flight.
Hopefully, again more information will become available in the near future, and hopefully our educated guess is wrong!
Scramble editorial note: The owner of the iPhone is trustful. Unfortunately, he was not allowed to give us the pictures of AAS as scrupulous rules were given to all AAS and OIR personnel about the emergency landing at that time. (but we can assure you, although of poor quality, they looked adrenaline-kicking great!). Following the F-117s flights through Death Valley, the involved person consulted a high ranking OIR commander who gave permission to publish the aforementioned words."