The Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley is set to be one of two permanent resting places for the F-117 Nighthawk, the world’s first operational stealth aircraft.
According to the Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation website, “Operation Nighthawk Landing” was a joint effort between the Reagan Foundation and Lockheed Martin Skunk Works to restore and create a permanent exhibition for the F-117 Nighthawk at the Reagan Library.
The display will be open to the public on Dec. 7, 2019. According to the Reagan Foundation website, a ribbon-cutting ceremony will be held during the Reagan Foundation and Institute’s annual Reagan National Defense Forum and the jet will be located outside near the F-14 aircraft where it will be visible from the auditorium.
“Made possible by loan from the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force, the F-117 placed on display will serve as a visible reminder to the Library’s near half-million annual visitors of President Reagan’s commitment to the rebuilding of the U.S. military through his ‘Peace through Strength’ program,” the library’s website read.
John Heubusch, executive director of the Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation and Institute, commended Lockheed Martin for restoring the aircraft and what it means to have this piece of history on display at the library.
“The Reagan Library will now be one of two places in the nation where the general public can visit the F-117 Stealth Fighter on permanent display. 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,” Heubusch said.
The F-117 Nighthawk was the world’s first operational stealth aircraft and was developed in response to an urgent national need for a fighter jet that could operate missions completely undetected, according to Lockheed Martin’s website. Skunk Works took on this project and created the aircraft in secret.
Jeff Babione, vice president and general manager of Lockheed Martin Skunk Works, said the F-117 paved the way for stealth technology.
“The F-117 was developed in response to an urgent national need. It has paved the way for today’s stealth technology and reminds us to continue redefining what’s possible. It’s been a privilege for our team to collaborate with the USAF and the Reagan Foundation on this effort, and we are excited to see it on proud display at its new home,” Babione said.
The F-117 took its first flight in June of 1981 and was piloted by Hal Farley. It had a near perfect combat record with only one of the 59 aircraft produced being lost, according to Lockheed Martin.
Lt. Col. Scott Stimpert, a pilot for the specific aircraft that is going on display at the library, recalled the time when the F-117 was still a classified program.
“I was privileged to fly the airplane when the program was classified. 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 fo the dark to take its rightful place in the light, somewhere it can be seen and appreciated by the people it helped to protect,” Stimpert said.