1993 F117 deployment Gilze Rijen

In 1993 an unique event took place: the deployment of 8 F-117A’s Nighthawk stealth bombers. Deployment "Coronet Havoc" was sent to Gilze Rijen air base and for a month these aircraft flew mission in European airspace – many times during the night. The F-117A became well known during its stealth missions of Desert Storm 1991 Iraq.


The F-117A’s had the tailcode 'HO' – Holloman AFB 49th FW / 415th FS. The 49th FW was always a high-profile wing, in the past it operated F-15’s (which I also saw), F-22A’s, MQ-1’s and currently MQ-9’s. Further back they also flew Phantoms, Thunderchiefs, (Super) Sabres, Invaders, Mustangs and Black Widows.

The 415th FS itself always had special (night) missions besides standard missions. It started in 1943 as a training unit flying P-70 nightfighters and A-20 Havocs. When it transferred to the Africa theatre the 415th flew together with a British sister squadron Bristol Beaufighters. It moved along with the allied advance into Italy and when it took part in the Germany theatre the 415th transferred to P-61 Black Widows. After the wart it served for a short time with P-61's and B-25 Mitchells in Alaska before being transferred back to CONUS as a Special Operations training unit. At Hurlburt Field it flew AC-119G Shadows and AC-130H Spectres. In 1979 it transferred to Groom Lake in which it would take part of the early stages of the F-117A Nighthawk stealth developments.

I saw F-117A’s during this deployment at Gilze Rijen AB, the air show at Eindhoven air base, Volkel air base and also overflying my house in Grave. They had a very distinctive sound, somewhat like a business jet but not quite the same.