SAC Museum receives stealth aircraft with help from 55th and 155th maintainers

  • Published
  • By Kendra Williams
  • 55th Wing Public Affairs

A team of Offutt and Lincoln Air National Guard maintainers from the 55th and 155th Maintenance Squadrons recently participated in a joint Crash Damaged Disabled Aircraft Recovery training exercise at the Strategic Air Command & Aerospace Museum in Ashland, where they assisted restoration specialists in the assembly of an F-117 Nighthawk.

The exercise provided a unique opportunity for the maintainers to practice disassembly and reassembly skills that would be needed in the event of an aircraft crash.

“We got some valuable training installing the wings and tail of the aircraft,” said Master Sgt. Bobby Howard, 55th Maintenance Squadron accessories flight chief. “The younger Airmen got experience that will translate into removing and installing major flight controls and aircraft structures.”

The F-117 was previously used at the Tonopah Test Range in Nevada and was transported to the museum where it will be put on display following a lengthy restoration process.  

“It’s about a three- to four-month process under best-case conditions from the time they pull the airplane out of storage,” said John Lefler Jr., the museum's marketing manager. “And it will take even longer for SAC’s two restoration staffers and three dozen volunteers to get it show-ready for the museum floor.”

Museum director Jeff Cannon said the aircraft adds to a collection of aircraft that played an important role in Cold War history.

“When we were informed this F-117 would become available, we jumped at the chance to continue collecting Cold War artifacts,” Cannon said. “The F-117 is a bookend in our collection as it helped to usher in the end of the Cold War. It represents a huge innovation leap that started with our SR-71 and U-2.”

Restoration of the F-117 Nighthawk is estimated to be complete by summer 2022, when it will be permanently displayed at the museum. The museum also plans to use it for STEM training.

A total of 64 Nighthawks were built for the Air Force. They were used extensively in the Persian Gulf War and later in Iraq and Afghanistan. The aircraft was retired from the Air Force in 2008.