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Stealth Down: The Loss of the First F-117 Stealth Fighter in Combat and the Dramatic Rescue of the Pilot

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  • Stealth Down: The Loss of the First F-117 Stealth Fighter in Combat and the Dramatic Rescue of the Pilot

Stealth Down: The Loss of the First F-117 Stealth Fighter in Combat and the Dramatic Rescue of the Pilot

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On the evening of March 27, 1999, a Serb surface-to-air missile (SAM) with 1970s technology blew one of the United States’...
On the evening of March 27, 1999, a Serb surface-to-air missile (SAM) with 1970s technology blew one of the United States’ most advanced fighter jets out of the sky, and shattered the common belief that the Stealth F-117A Nighthawk was invisible.

The radar-evading aircraft that crashed near Budjanovci, a village northwest of the Serbian capital of Belgrade, was the first F-117 to be lost in combat. An Air Force special operations helicopter rescue force was scrambled from a forward staging area in Tuzla, Bosnia, to conduct a combat search and rescue (CSAR) mission for the pilot. The helicopters flew into one of the world’s deadliest integrated air defense systems. Their mission: to pick up Lieutenant Colonel Darrell Zelko, who had ejected from his crippled aircraft and landed in a field about ten miles from Batajnica Airfield, Yugoslavia’s primary Mikoyan-Gurevich (MiG) fighter base. The downed pilot landed within a few miles of three Serb Army brigades. His next duty was to avoid becoming a prisoner of war (POW).

Capturing Zelko, an F-117 pilot who had bombed Baghdad during the Gulf War, would have had the effect of throwing cold water on the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) air campaign at a critical stage, because the propaganda value of parading the "Mother of All POWs" before cameras in Belgrade would have been incalculable.

We may never know how close the Serbs came to capturing Zelko, but they certainly had a lot more time than they should have had, thanks to a series of Allied mistakes.

After Colonel Zoerb and his team of experts briefed General Michael Ryan, USAF chief of staff, on what happened, Ryan ordered a team of F-117 pilots, who flew against Serb targets, to rewrite the textbook on Stealth tactics. The Air Force is now sharing information, about the strengths as well as weaknesses of Stealth aircraft, with military units who need to know, so there are no more snafus like the one that occurred over Serbia on the fourth night of the NATO air campaign.
SKU 38177
Product Code 1-88639149-1
Name Stealth Down: The Loss of the First F-117 Stealth Fighter in Combat and the Dramatic Rescue of the Pilot
Author Ross W. Simpson
ISBN 9781886391499
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