Armour Collection B11E408 USAF Lockheed F-117A Stealth Fighter-Bomber - 8th Fighter Squadron, 49th Fighter Wing "Black Sheep", Operation Desert Thunder, 1997-'98 (1:48 Scale)
"Obsolete weapons do not deter."
- British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher
It may just be the most sophisticated warplane ever built. Virtually invisible to radar, the F-117 Ghostrider, better known as the "Stealth", has revolutionized the tenets of air warfare. Developed in secrecy, the Stealth made its combat debut over Panama in the late nineteen-eighties and was again employed in the Gulf War a few years later. Prowling the night skies over Baghdad with impunity, it struck the most heavily defended Iraqi targets while eluding the enemy's extensive anti-aircraft defenses. The F-117's unusual shape, advanced composite materials, and internal weapons loadout make it all but invisible to radar. Flying at night, this black beauty is also invisible to the naked eye. Because it can't be detected, the F-117 can take its time on the attack, making it deadly accurate.
Pictured here is a spectacular 1:48 scale diecast replica of a F117A Nighthawk stealth fighter-bomber, attached to the 8th Fighter Squadron "Black Sheep", 49th Fighter Wing, during Operation Desert Thunder in 1997-'98.
Historical Account: "The Black Jet" - The 49th Fighter Wing was originally organized as the 49th Pursuit Group (Interceptor) in 1940. At that time, the unit was among the first to deploy from the United States to the Pacific Theater of Operations during World War II. Redesignated the 49th Fighter Group, the unit played an important role in halting Japanese advances in the Southwest Pacific. During four years of World War II combat, the group was successful in providing air defense from Australia to the Philippines.
By war's end, the group's pilots destroyed 678 enemy aircraft, a record surpassing that of any other fighter group in the Pacific Theater. The group's World War II activities merited two Philippines Republic Presidential Unit Citations, three U.S. Distinguished Unit Citations, and 10 battle honors.
Among the unit's 43 aces were Lt. Colonel Boyd D. "Buzz" Wagner, the first World War II ace in the Pacific Theater, and Major Richard I. Bong, whose 40 kills made him America's number one ace (a record that still stands). The 49th soon became endeared to the American people through the nickname, "Fighting 49ers".
On July 1st, 1968, the 49th arrived at Holloman Air Force Base, becoming the first dual-based tactical fighter wing. Under the dual-basing concept, the 49th, stationed at Holloman, deployed individual squadrons periodically to Europe, fulfilling their NATO commitment.
In May 1972, the 49th deployed their F-4 aircraft and 2,600 personnel to Takhli Air Base, Thailand. During this deployment, Operation Constant Guard, the 49th flew more than 21,000 combat hours over just about every battle zone from An Loc to vital installations in the Hanoi vicinity. During five months of combat, the wing did not lose any aircraft or personnel. The unit officially closed out its Southwest Asia duty October 6th, 1972, receiving an Air Force Outstanding Unit Award with Combat "V" Device for its participation.
On Dec. 20th, 1977, the wing began converting from the F-4 to the F-15. The transition was completed June 4th, 1978.
History was made during February 1980, when two pilots from the 49th each flew their F-15s, 6,200 miles in just over 14 hours, establishing a record for the longest flight of a single-seat fighter aircraft. The flights required six aerial refuelings. In July 1980, the wing acquired the commitment of a primary Rapid Deployment Force unit. This tasking, which lasted for a year, required the wing to be ready to deploy its aircraft, crews, and support personnel on short notice. The wing served with the Rapid Deployment Force until July 1981, when the tasking was transferred to the 1st Tactical Fighter Wing, Langley Air Force Base, Virginia.
The 49th demonstrated its capabilities in the fall of 1988, winning top honors at the William Tell air-to-air weapons competition. The wing outdistanced the nearest competitor by more than 2,000 points. The 49th won a variety of awards, including the coveted "Top Gun" for best fighter pilot.
In 1992, the 49th underwent a number of transitions. The last F-15 departed Holloman June 5th, 1992, ending 14 years of Eagle operations. On May 9th, 1992, four F-117 stealth fighters from Tonopah Test Range, Nevada, arrived at Holloman. Also, F-4s returned to Holloman, as part of the 9th Fighter Squadron, in May 1992.
The 8th and 9th Fighter Squadrons deployed to Aviano Air Base, Italy and Spangdahlem Air Base, Germany from February 21st - July 1st, 1999, in support of Operation Allied Force. Flying more than 1,000 total sorties, pilots flew into heavily defended skies, littered with surface-to-air missiles and anti-aircraft fire. In particular, F-117A pilots bravely trusting in their aircraft's low observable technology struck some of the most valuable, and highly guarded targets in Serbia. The F-117s successfully penetrated the heavily defended areas, which conventional aircraft could not reach.
The 49th Fighter Wing supports national security objectives with mission-ready F-117A stealth fighters, an Air Transportable Clinic and Bare Base assets. The wing deploys worldwide to support peacetime and wartime contingencies, trains USAF aircrews in F-117A and T-38A and allied aircrews in F-4F Fighter Transition and Weapons Instructor Courses, and provides support to over 18,000 personnel to include German Air Force Tornado operations.
The wing's 20th FS provides training to international pilots under U.S. government foreign military sales program at the German Air Force Flying Training Center established at Holloman AFB in May 1996. On October 12th, 2002 4 F-117A's from the 49th FW deployed to Germany to take part in an Air Force exercise called Coronet Nighthawk. The aircraft are believed to have been part of the 9th Fighter Squadron and were to be deployed for two weeks.