MIGHTY TACTICAL
Oriana Pawlyk

Iconic aircraft is headed to the Reagan Presidential Library

(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Aaron D. Allmon II)

An F-117 Nighthawk is headed to the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library December 2019 and will call the Simi Valley, California, hillside its permanent home.

The Reagan Foundation and manufacturer Lockheed Martin announced Nov. 4, 2019, that the single-seat, twin-engine stealth aircraft will be on display just outside the library, next to an F-14 Tomcat.

The restored jet, tail number 803, will be unveiled during the annual Reagan National Defense Forum on Dec. 7, 2019.

"The Reagan Library will now be one of two places in the nation where the general public can visit an F-117 Stealth Fighter on permanent display," said John Heubusch, executive director of the Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation and Institute.


"We are deeply grateful to Lockheed Martin for their outstanding assistance in restoring the aircraft for such a meaningful display and to the U.S. Air Force for making it possible for the Reagan Library to exhibit the plane for millions of visitors to enjoy for years to come," he said in a news release.

An F-117 Nighthawk.

(Public Domain)

Nicknamed the "Unexpected Guest," the jet going to the library flew more combat sorties — 78 — than all other F-117s combined, according to the release. It entered service in 1984.

Another F-117 is on public display at the National Museum of the United States Air Force in Dayton, Ohio.

According to officials, Lockheed produced 59 operational F-117s and five developmental prototypes, beginning in 1981. The U.S. didn't publicly acknowledge the stealth attack plane — capable of going after high-value targets without being detected by enemy radar — until 1988, even though a few crashed during trials.

"The F-117 was developed in response to an urgent national need," said Jeff Babione, vice president and general manager of the Lockheed Martin Skunk Works, the division that designs and engineers advanced development projects, which are typically highly classified.

"It has paved the way for today's stealth technology and reminds us to continue redefining what's possible," Babione said in the release. "It's been a privilege for our team to collaborate with the [Air Force] and the Reagan Foundation on this effort, and we are excited to see it on proud display at its new home."

The F-117 Nighthawk has been spotted over the Nevada desert occasionally in recent years, despite plans to divest them over time.

An F-117 conducts a live exercise bombing run.

(Public Domain)

Technically categorized as "flyable storage," the remaining F-117s in the Air Force inventory are tucked away at test and training ranges in Tonopah, Nevada.

But the National Defense Authorization Act of 2017 called for the removal of up to four F-117s every year to fully put them to bed — a process known as demilitarizing aircraft.

Congress gave authority in 2007 and 2008 to retire a total of 52 F-117s from the inventory but wanted them maintained so they could be recalled to service if they were needed for a high-end war, an official previously told Military.com.

The aircraft first saw combat during Operation Just Cause, the invasion of Panama, on Dec. 19, 1989, according to the Air Force.

"I was privileged to fly the airplane when the program was classified," said retired Lt. Col. Scott Stimpert, the pilot for tail number 803. "It was an exciting time, and a vitally important capability, but not something you could share with friends or family. I'm glad the airplane can come out of the dark to take its rightful place in the light, somewhere it can be seen and appreciated by the people it helped to protect."

This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.