If you ever wanted to know what’s really inside of a F-117 Stealth fighter, here’s your chance.
I’m going out on a limb and posting my first F-117 story from Desert Storm.
This is no shit.
I was taking my turn as NCOIC of the EOR. For civilians and Nonners, this means I was in charge of the End of Runway Crew. EOR is where we get one last look at the jet before it takes off.
So as night began to fall, we were in one van and the Saudi EOR crew were in theirs. Four Saudi F-15’s come back and are de-armed and sent back to their shelters. Then it got dark. We work in the dark, the Saudis were afraid of the dark. They had a huge light tower that they turned on. This was No Bueno for us because we had airplanes coming out to launch. I told Ken* to go turn off the lights. He did. As soon as he did, the Saudis came scurrying out to turn it back on. I sent Ken* back out and he turns them off a second time. By the time he gets back into the truck, the lights are back on. I handed him a pair of dykes and said, “Make sure that damn thing doesn’t turn on again. He gleefully runs out there again. Snip, snip, snip. No more lights
Our planes show. We look them over and they leave. But there is a problem. One jet is missing.
Shortly thereafter, another set of F-15’s come back. The Saudi’s, with flashlights, de-arm them and send them on their way.
We’re Comm out so I can’t call to ask what’s happening so we wait. As we’re looking down the taxi way looking for our jet. It finally appears. At the other end of the revetment. Coming out of the desert. Popping a wheelie with dirt and dust flying off the main tires.
HOLY SWEET MOTHER OF GOD!
It was really quite a sight.
We all run down to that end and I plug into the intercom system.
Me: “What the fuck?”
Pilot*: “GOD DAMNED RAG HEAD RAN ME OFF THE ROAD!”
Pilot*: (meekly) “Am I all right?”
ME: “Yes sir. You’re good to go. Good Bye and Good Hunting”
*Name changed to protect the guilty.
“So there I was, at 30 thousand feet, flat on my back, shooting my watch.”
Isn’t that how every Air Force Story starts? This isn’t that kind of story. But it is 100% certified “This is no Shit.” true.
Right after we enjoyed a nice Christmas Season complete with a tree (with decorations) that we looted from the Rhein Mein AB BX, we started bombing the shit out of Iraq. I proudly painted a bomb as a mission mark on my bomb bay door. The very next morning I was in the Captain’s Office trying to explain why I “defaced 56 million dollars of Air Force property”.
“We’re a young service, sir”, I said. “It’s one of our few traditions, sir.” The Captain reaches into his desk and produces a stencil. “We were thinking about, doing this.”
“With all due respect, sir. That’s Gay”
“Can you do better?”
“If you let me into the Saudi Sheet Metal shop I know I can.”
That’s how I got “voluntold” to paint mission marks on our jets. Because the deployed fleet was repainted a couple of times, I wound up painting both squadrons.
I used the top edge to get vertical spacing and the little square cut out to get horizontal spacing. It was a based on a design that the Lucky Puppies at Hahn AB never got to use painting MiG kills on their jets.
When the war ended and we were allowed to go off base and someone discovered a Philippine barber right outside the gate. Since we didn’t deploy with a barber, everyone hot hoofed it to his shop to get a proper haircut. He also had a side line of selling wooden F-117 models at a modest price.
“So what”, you might say. It’s just a model. Closer examination reveals that every facet of the jet is faithfully reproduced. This includes our then super-secret ass end.
How did a barber find out exactly what the jet looked like?
In 1976, the Tree Day War happened in South Korea. F-111’s from Mountain Home AFB, Montana “magically” appeared in Korea as part of Operation Ready Switch. The Boys from Tonopah wanted to recreate this feat and secretly deploy a second squadron of F-117’s to Saudi. Unfortunately, the mission planners forgot or didn’t fully understand the term “Time Zone”. Instead of stealthily landing under the cover of darkness, grabbing some fuel and hauling ass to Saudi. The ENTIRE SQUADRON landed in full daylight and in front of the glaring cameras of CNN. The gallant ADVON team recovered the jets like normal. Including opening our super secret bomb bay doors. After much tap dancing it was determined that the doors were “Declassified” sometime during the trip from Tonopah to Langley.
If you look closely there are three campaign stars on the ribbon on my model. One for Desert Shield, one for Desert Storm and one for Desert Stuck. We, the 416th Fighter Squadron got to stay behind to protect Saudi Arabia. General Schwartzkoff personally ordered the Stealth to stay in case Hussein decided he wasn’t really defeated.
It was actually a boring time. Dressing, undressing, eating, sleeping, knitting exciting underwear. I had made friends in the Saudi Sheet Metal Shop (see above story) so I decided to do some arts and crafts. Taking 3/4 inch plexiglass stock I cut and fashioned some clear F-117’s and handed (or maybe sold, I forget) them out as souvenirs. My exceptionally vengeful ex wife stole mine. If any veterans out there still have theirs drop a picture in the comments or on our facebook fan page.
Proving that no idea is too bad to steal, I’ve noticed that the pilots at Holloman started to give each other clear F-117’s.
He also gets a suspiciously clear F-117 model.
In the black, Black, BLACK days of the F-117, milestones were celebrated by bestowing a “Widget”.