Shortly after arriving at King Khalid International Airport in Riyadh Saudi Arabia, my crew began flying refueling missions in support of Operation Desert Shield. I did not know my Copilot and Navigator flew Special Air Refueling missions back in the States. Once King Khalid’s leadership knew, my KC-135 crew was briefed into Special Mission Air Refueling with the unclassified nickname Busy Spartan.
Our first Busy Spartan mission was on a Sunday night. When they told us we were going to fly a special mission, I figured we were going to refuel Special Operations MC-130 or AC-130 gunships. I could not have been more wrong!
The Busy Spartan program was refueling the F-117 Stealth fighter, known to us as The Black Jet. Going back to the boom pod after the F-117s left our wing, I laid down in the couch for the next group to come up. It was one of the most memorable experiences of my flying career. You could see the wingtip navigation lights blinking but you couldn’t see the airplane. Once it came under our tail boom flood light, I watched the air refueling door roll over! Seeing that was one of the most surreal experiences of my flying career! Our Boom Operator Mikey kept saying over the interphone “This is the Cat’s ass!” I flew F-117 missions for a month until my Squadron moved to Jeddah Saudi Arabia where we would fight the Desert Storm war.
The Air Force retired the F-117 Fleet in 2008 as the F-22 Raptor came into Air Force squadrons. All F-117s were thought to have been destroyed. Recently a photographer driving through Panamint Valley of California saw a black speck coming on the horizon. It was an F-117 flying at 200 feet straight down the valley. The following day he came back with his camera and took beautiful pictures of the airplane going by. In one photo you can see the pilot giving the photographer a “hang-loose” hand signal shown here. The F-117s are currently being used as stealthy adversary airplanes in our exercises over the Nellis Air Force Base Range north of Las Vegas Nevada.
A recent customer and a very good friend flew F-15s when we lived in Okinawa, Japan. Later in his career Hoser flew F-117s out of Holloman AFB New Mexico with the 9th Fighter Squadron “Black Sheep.” Asking if we could draw the Black Jet, I told him it was already drawn and Wall Pilot could customize one for him. After sending us his tail number, we were able to create a custom graphic of an F-117 with his name on the canopy rail. Wall Pilot artists customized a basic F-117 graphic and added the Black Sheep Squadron patch and the U.S. Air Force graduate patch above the aircraft. Hoser now has a 6 ft long print of The Black Jet with his tail number and name on the canopy hanging in his house. This is why our motto remains “Preserving history, one aircraft at a time!”