The legendary F-117 Nighthawk, long known by its not-quite-accurate popular name, the “Stealth Fighter,” was the world’s first operational stealth aircraft. What began as a “hopeless diamond” design shape intended to diffuse an aircraft’s radar signature, the F-117 found its way into service in 1983, though it would be five more years before Uncle Sam would admit to having them.
In the years that followed, the F-117, and the stealth technology it introduced, both proved themselves valuable time and time again. Although the venerable Nighthawk was formally retired about a decade ago, the angular bomber is still a fairly regular sight in the skies above America’s Southwest, where it’s presumed that these stealthy platforms are playing the role of “aggressors” against American fighters that are developing both the tactics and the technology needed to engage enemy stealth aircraft like China’s J-20 or Russia’s Su-57.
With a payload capacity of just two small-diameter bombs and a subsonic top-speed, the F-117 was never a stealth “fighter” despite its popular name. Instead, it offered the U.S. Air Force the never-before-seen capability to enter contested airspace undetected, engage ground targets, and return safely. The F-117’s ability to fly in heavily defended skies made it the perfect “tip of the spear” aircraft for engaging enemy air defenses and making it safer for non-stealth, fourth-generation fighters to operate. Today, that role has been absorbed by a number of different stealth platforms, including America’s top multi-role fighter, the F-35.
Despite an undisclosed number of these stealth platforms remaining in use, the government has clearly decided it doesn’t need this particular F-117 any longer. The majority of America’s F-117 fleet now lives on the Tonopah Test Range, awaiting disassembly. While stealth technology may have improved since the 70s, the U.S. government is still careful about allowing its stealth research to slip into the wrong hands, and as such, the airframe put up for sale has been stripped of radar absorbent coating and any electronic warfare equipment it may have once carried.
In fact, what the buyer will receive is little more than a stripped fuselage, lacking radar defeating substructures and most of the components required to fly. According to the listing, this aircraft, which first flew in 1987, has been “cannibalized” for parts that went into other F-117 platforms in need of repair.
You can only purchase this F-117 for use as a “static display” anyway, so sticking this Nighthawk in your garage to try to get running again is out of the question. Instead, the listing suggests that you could restore the jet for display purposes for right around $300,000. The listing does not offer a purchase price, but does point out that the original platform rang in at a cool $42 million back in 1987.