July 31, 2020
Jim Brown, who served as the chief test pilot for both the F-117 Nighthawk and the F-22 Raptor, amassed over 2,000 flight hours in these Lockheed stealth fighter aircraft. The presentation provides a first-hand account of the origins of stealth and Lockheed’s involvement in this game-changing technology. Following a short primer on the basic principles of Stealth, each aircraft is examined showing how these principles were put into application. Design details, performance capabilities and weapons employment will be discussed as well as comparisons between the two aircraft to show the evolution of stealth fighter aircraft design. Interspersed with the technical discussion are personal anecdotes providing entertaining insights into the experience of Flying Lockheed’s Stealth Fighters.
The F-117 was the world’s first stealth fighter. From inception, the low observability objective drove aircraft design. The need for secrecy and expedience from design to operational capability led Lockheed to use already existing off-the-shelf aircraft systems in the configuration. The Nighthawk saw its first considerable combat use in the first Iraq War, Desert Storm. There the revolutionary capabilities of the aircraft were demonstrated. The F-117 force comprised 2% of the attack aircraft fleet, and with a standard load of two 2,000 pound laser guided bombs destroyed 46% of the coalition targets and achieved tactical surprise on every night of the war. No F-117s were shot down in the entire conflict. The F-117 fleet was retired in 1998 and remains in flyable storage at Tonopah, NV.
The F-22 was conceived from the ground up to be a revolutionary air dominance fighter that would represent a quantum leap in combat capability. It was the first aircraft to incorporate the demanding, and sometimes contradictory, characteristics of Stealth, Integrated Avionics, Supersonic Cruise and Extreme Maneuverability. These capabilities allowed the F-22 “to operate with virtual impunity.” during its initial operational trials. The F-22 is conducting combat operations at this time in the Middle East and provides a significant deterrent force in the Western Pacific.
Jim Brown graduated “With Distinction” from the Virginia Military Institute in 1976 with a BS Degree in Civil Engineering, earned a Master of Science in Management from Troy State University and completed graduate study in Mechanical Engineering with California State University, Fresno. Following two European tours flying the F-4 and F-5 he was selected to attend the USAF Test Pilot School where he graduated with Class 86A in December of 1986. Following graduation he tested the A-7, F-15 Eagle, F-117 and F-22. In 1994 he was hired by the Lockheed Skunk Works as an Experimental Test Pilot in the F-117 Stealth Fighter. While on the F-117, he tested software, avionics and weapons improvements. Many of these improvements saw service in Operation Joint Endeavor over Bosnia and Operation Iraqi Freedom, the second Gulf War. As the Chief Test Pilot after flying the Stealth for eight years with over 900 flight hours, he went on to test the F-22 eventually becoming the Raptor Chief Test Pilot. In January 2016 he retired from Lockheed Martin and joined National Test Pilot School as the Chief Operating Officer and Test Pilot Instructor. JB is a Fellow and Past President of the Society of Experimental Test Pilots, a Fellow of the Royal Aeronautical Society and an Eagle of the Flight Test Historical Foundation. He has logged over 9,800 flight hours in 154 different models of aircraft and is the world’s highest time Stealth Fighter pilot.