Warplanes: January 12, 2001

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The Air Force is taking steps to keep the F-117 stealth fighter-bomber fleet flying past 2009. The problem is that some key components of the aircraft are no longer in production, and hence cannot be replaced if they wear out. One example is the multi-function displays used in the cockpit. The Air Force was able to make a major purchase of these just before production shut down (using money saved in the logistical support deal with Lockheed Martin) and has enough (at current rate of usage) to last through 2009. The spare parts for the targeting system will also be exhausted about that time, and these too are no longer in production. The solution is to develop new systems that could enter service about 2006 and begin replacing the older systems as they wear out. These new components would utilize new technology, developed since the F-117 Stealth Fighter-Bomber went into service, to enhance existing capabilities. The targeting system, for example, may be given higher resolution and the ability to plot targets from greater ranges, allowing the F-117 to utilize new stand-off weapons. That could be critical as other developing technologies threaten to pierce the veil of stealth around these

 


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