The U.S. Air Force F-117 Nighthawk was once the first stealth fighter in the world to enter actual combat. In 1999, a U.S. F-117 fighter was shot down by anti-aircraft missiles in an air raid on the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, breaking the myth of unbeaten stealth fighters. What’s more unknown, former U.S. pilots revealed that another F-117 fighter was injured by an anti-aircraft missile of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia that year.
According to the “Warzone” column of the American website “The Drive” on December 1, retired Air Force Lieutenant Colonel and former F-117 pilot Charlie Hainline dictated in a podcast that another F- The 117 fighters were injured by the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, but eventually returned to the base.
Heinlein narrated that before becoming an F-117 pilot, he was the pilot of the A-10 attack aircraft. After the U.S. military first put the F-117 into combat in 1989, Heinlein became the pilot of this stealth fighter. In 1993, he flew F-117 to participate in the operation of establishing a no-fly zone against Iraq, where he was harassed by Iraqi anti-aircraft artillery fire, but the aircraft was unharmed.
In 1999, Heinlein flew the F-117 for the second time and participated in the NATO military operation to bomb the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. At that time, he was affiliated with the 9th Fighter Squadron “Flying Knights” and was deployed at Spandallem Air Force Base in Germany.
Heinlein claimed that the battle at that time was “very difficult”. After taking off from western Germany, first look for a tanker in Hungarian airspace. Then carry out a bombing mission, which will fly 35 to 40 minutes over the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. After that, he returned to the base after another refueling. The whole journey takes about six hours from take-off to landing.
According to Heinlein, the F-117 usually carries two laser-guided missiles and puts them on one target. Targets often include communication facilities such as radio towers, and the base of these facilities must be hit to destroy them. He also mentioned other targets, including bridges, factories, buildings where key people are located, and petrochemical facilities.
But one night, when Heinlein and his teammates were on a mission, something happened. Previously, on March 27, 1999, the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, under the command of Colonel Dani Zoltan, shot down an old Soviet S-117 fighter number 82-806 with the old Soviet S-125 (NATO called SA-3 “Sam 3). This is also the first time that a F-117 fighter has been shot down.
Heinlein didn’t say the time, but “The Drive” said it was after the first F-117 was shot down. Another source quoted by The Drive said that the specific time may be April 30, 1999.
Heinlein recalled: “At that time, [the enemy] fired a considerable number of anti-aircraft shells and anti-aircraft missiles”. He said that these missiles included the SA-3 anti-aircraft missiles made by the former Soviet Union, which had shot down the “Vega 31″ (the call sign of the shot downed F-117 fighter jet), and other types of anti-aircraft missiles at that time.”
On the night of Heinlein’s mission, the pilots of an F-16CJ fighter in the United States Air Force issued an alert to the crew of the F-117 fighter aircraft that enemy anti-aircraft missiles would attack. F-16CJ fighters are equipped with anti-radiation aiming system (HTS) pods, which are specialized in the “wild rat” operation to suppress enemy air defense systems. At that time, he was in the northwest suburbs of Belgrade. At this time, Heinlein was flying F-117 fighter jets to the target, only about 30 to 40 seconds away from reaching the drop point.
The two F-117s are about 10 miles apart. He described: “At that time, I looked to the right, and a huge missile flew towards me, which looked a little like Saturn 5. I knew my teammates were near there, and then I saw another missile launching with fire. Even from that distance, you can see a lot of details, thick smoke billowing, a fireball flying towards you.
Heinley has received special training in this situation before. In similar details, he must keep the autopilot stable, because manual steering or tilting may adversely affect the radar cross-section of the aircraft and provide a “more attractive target” for the missile.
Heinlein said that when he was flying to the target, one missile exploded and the other went straight into space. He wondered whether the missile hit his teammates. Subsequently, Heinlein continued to fly and completed the bombing mission.
When Heinlein completed the task and returned to the airspace for aerial refueling, he found that another F-117 did not meet him on time. During this time, he circled in place and persuaded the KC-135 tanker to stay in this airspace, waiting for another F-117 to return. Finally, the gas rod operator found an F-117 approaching in the dark, but there was no light.
“The condition of his plane is not very good,” Heinlein recalled. As soon as the plane connected to the refueling pole, it dropped its altitude. Both Heinlein and the tanker doubted whether the F-117 had only one engine working or encountered other problems.
So Heinlein Hanlin asked the tanker to lower its flaps to slow down the flight speed and let the F-117 fighter dock and refuel. Despite the spill of fuel from around the refueling port, the F-117 fighter managed to fill up and return to the base.
Heinlein also recalled that on the way back to Germany, the F-117 fighter “disappeared again”, but eventually the plane returned to the base.
Heinlein was awarded the “Outstanding Flight Medal” by the United States for ensuring that his teammates returned. However, Heinlein’s remarks have not been confirmed by the U.S. military.
He stressed that in any combat situation, anti-aircraft missiles are an object of attention for “black fighters” (F-117 fighters). He said that the F-117 is only “low visibility” rather than “stealth”, and that even older anti-aircraft missiles like the SA-3 are a real threat to the F-117, as confirmed by the earlier shot down Vega 31.
Although the F-117 showed great ability to complete tasks in the Kosovo War and the Iraq War, it still reflects the technology of the late 1970s. In late 2006, the U.S. Air Force closed the pilot training school of the F-117 and announced the retirement of the F-117.