Kit #AA2097. 1/72 scale. This is a highly-detailed
resin kit of the experimental stealth aircraft, the Lockheed Have Blue, complete with decals.
As Soviet air defenses improved in Europe –
as demonstrated by the increasingly sophisticated radar-guided air defenses mounted
over Hanoi and Haiphong, North Vietnam, in the early 70s – it became apparent
that NATO aircraft would suffer serious losses in any non-nuclear war over
central Europe. In 1974, the USAF and
DARPA – the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, which also created the
Internet – initiated a study of very low observable military aircraft – a “Stealth”
aircraft. DARPA asked Northrop and McDonnell Douglas to develop small proof-of-concept
aircraft. Lockheed, not then known for its fighter aircraft, wasn’t even considered.
However, with the help of the CIA, and based on Lockheed’s creation of the stealthy
A-12 and D-21 CIA spy aircraft, Lockheed was allowed to participate – but as a
private venture, with no government money.
In early 1977, after McDonnell Douglas bowed out, considering the
stealth aircraft concept to be theoretically possible – but practically
impossible to build into hardware – Lockheed won the contract for two 60-percent
scale flyable test aircraft, code named Have
Blue. DARPA asked Northrop to
proceed in a different direction, code-named Tacit Blue, which ultimately evolved into the B-2 Spirit stealth
The two Have Blue aircraft were built at
Lockheed’s Skunk Works – which had created the U2 and SR-72, among many other
technology innovators – and began testing at Groom Lake (the notorious “Area 51”)
within just a few months. The prototypes
were largely built by managers, after machinists went on a four-month strike. To speed production, landing gear was “borrowed”
from a Northrop F-5 fighter, the two
General Electric J-85 engines were pulled from a North American T-2B Buckeye
trainer, and the fly-by-wire flight control system was borrowed from a General Dynamics F-16 Viper.
The first prototype evaluated the type's
flying characteristics, while the second evaluated the design’s stealthy radar
signature. The first flight of Have Blue
1001 took place in December 1977, less than a year after the contract had
been awarded, and it crashed in mid-1978, having been nicknamed “Hopeless Diamond”
because of its strange shape and relatively poor aerodynamics. Have Blue 1002 took to the air for the
first time in July 1978, this occurring shortly after the loss of Have Blue 1001.
Have Blue 1002 proved undetectable by all
airborne radars except those on the Boeing E-3 AWACS. For this reason, the USAF
awarded Lockheed a full scale engineering development contact for the Senior Trend aircraft, later designated
the F-117A Nighthawk fighter-bombers.
Following the production of five prototypes, the F-117 entered production in
1981 and went operational in 1983. It “went
public in 1988, and the 59th and final aircraft was produced in 1990. It flew over Panama, the Gulf, Yugoslavia and
Afghanistan before being retired in 2008.