F-16 in sleek matte black color scheme honoring F-117

The 8th Fighter Squadron at Holloman Air Force Base (AFB) collaborated with Hill AFB, Utah to paint their F-16 Viper flagship a sleek matte black in honor of the F-117 Nighthawk.

As told by Airman 1st Class Michelle Ferrari, 49th Wing Public Affairs, in the article 8th Fighter Squadron unveils new flagship honoring F-117 Nighthawk, traditional heritage and squadron paint schemes reflect the combat lineage of their respective units that honor and celebrate the history and traditions of the units to which they belong.

8th Fighter Squadron unveils F-16 Viper in sleek matte black color scheme honoring F-117 Nighthawk
The 8th Fighter Squadron displays an F-16 Viper, painted to resemble an F-117 Nighthawk at Holloman Air Force Base, New Mexico, Jun. 5, 2024. The 8th Fighter Squadron unveiled its new flagship, painted with a matte black color scheme that draws inspiration from the legendary F-117 Nighthawk stealth aircraft.

“The Black Sheep was one of the Holloman fighter units to fly the F-117 Nighthawk,” said US Air Force Maj. Daniel Thompson, 8th FS instructor pilot. “We decided to highlight a unique facet of our history which aligns perfectly with the identity of our unit.”

Overall, the combination of dark and light gray tones as well as the distinct squadron markings give the aircraft a unique appearance.

“We were striving for a design that allowed the jet to perform in training and look good from all angles,” said Thompson. “Various concepts and modifications were implemented on the jet, leading to the final design which was the product of extensive rumination within the squadron.”

Viper Black Sheep
An F-16 Viper assigned to the 8th Fighter Squadrons waits on a runway at Holloman Air Force Base, New Mexico, Jun. 28, 2024.

The Nighthawk

The F-117 was transferred to Holloman in 1992 and the 8th FS flew it on daring missions with minimal support in high-threat environments for over 25 years. They also played a crucial role in integrating the Nighthawk into the US Air Force’s operational capabilities, contributing to its successful deployment in various conflicts.

The Lockheed F-117A was developed in response to an Air Force request for an aircraft capable of attacking high value targets without being detected by enemy radar. By the 1970s, new materials and techniques allowed engineers to design an aircraft with radar-evading or “stealth” qualities. The result was the F-117A, the world’s first operational stealth aircraft.

8th Fighter Squadron unveils F-16 Viper in sleek matte black color scheme honoring F-117 Nighthawk
An F-16 Viper assigned to the 8th Fighter Squadrons flies over Holloman Air Force Base, New Mexico, Jun. 6, 2024. The squadron’s new flagship honors the F-117 Nighthawk, which was flown by the 8th FS for over 25 years.

The first F-117A flew on Jun. 18, 1981, and the first F-117A unit, the 4450th Tactical Group (renamed the 37th Tactical Fighter Wing in October 1989), achieved initial operating capability in October 1983.

A total of 59 F-117As were built between 1981 and 1990. In 1989 the F-117A was awarded the Collier Trophy, one of the most prized aeronautical awards in the world.

The Nighthawk was officially retired from active service in 2008, primarily due to the emergence of more advanced aircraft but remains an iconic symbol of stealth technology and precision strike capabilities.

Nighthawk Black Sheep
8th Fighter Squadron F-117A 86-0840 landing at Holloman AFB with drouge chute deployed.

However, although officially retired, as already reported many F-117s remain airworthy and are used to support limited research and training missions based on overall cost effectiveness and their ability to offer unique capabilities.

Preserving and honoring the legacy of the 8th FS

“The F-117 paint scheme preserves and honors the legacy of the 8th FS from 1992 to 2008 and fosters a sense of pride continuity, reinforcing the unit’s identity and traditions,” said Martha Whipple, 49th Wing historian. “This paint scheme bridges the past and present, educating the new generations of maintainers and pilots about the history of the Black Sheep.”

F-117 print
This print is available in multiple sizes from AircraftProfilePrints.com – CLICK HERE TO GET YOURS.  F-117A Nighthawk (Stealth) 49th OG, 8th FS “The Black Sheep Squadron”, HO/88-843, Holoman AFB, NM – 2008

The aircraft played a significant role in shaping the evolution of military aviation, dating back to World War II. The F-117 was at Holloman longer than any other base and remains a historic Fightin’ 49er icon.

“The Nighthawk played a pivotal role in history, and we believed it would be fitting to commission an aircraft with a paint job that pays tribute to the legacy of our squadron and the Air Force,” said U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. Joshua Hughes, 8th Aircraft Maintenance Unit aircraft section chief. “The flagship with be utilized for airshows and any available opportunities, to fly the aircraft to showcase the 8th FS heritage.”

The squadron intends to use the flagship as a daily trainer aircraft in support of their mission to build world-class aircrew for the Great Power Competition.

F-117 premium model
This model is available from AirModels – CLICK HERE TO GET YOURS.

Photo credit: Airman 1st Class Michelle Ferrari / U.S. Air Force and Courtesy photo