Listen To This Highly Interesting Radio Recording Of The F-117’s Latest Flight Over Nevada

The recording is high quality, includes a Red Flag mission and test sorties, as well as the F-117’s shadowy flight.

byTyler Rogoway|
U.S. Homeland photo


Yesterday we posted an article that showcased a video of a pair of 'retired' F-117s, callsign NIGHT 17 and NIGHT 19, taking off from Tonopah Test Range Airport on July 26th, 2018. The stealth jets went on to refuel from a KC-135R tanker, callsign SIERA 98, orbiting near Area 51's highly-restricted airspace. Then one of the jets returned to base for some pattern work while the other continued on to play with something inside 'the box' surrounding Area 51.

Once again, you can read all about the F-117's murky status and why it could still be flying in our previous piece on the July 26th mission, but now we have some awesome audio to go along with that the video posted in that piece. 

The recording comes to us from Youtube user 'Pdgls' who also posted the July 26th F-117 video. It is hours long and is incredibly interesting to listen to because it paints a picture of just how busy the Nellis Test and Training Range is on a weekday while a Red Flag international training exercise is underway. You can listen to the Red Flag mission in the first half or so of the recording, including the calls from ground-control intercept (GCI) controllers pointing out targets for 'red-air' aggressors

64th Aggressor Squadron F-16C over the NTTR., USAF

The Colombians in their Kfirs also seem to be quite chatty, speaking in Spanish. Then, once the daytime Red Flag mission wraps up, all the other tests and training flights commence. 

During one particularly interesting portion of the audio, you hear in great detail an F-35 air-to-ground test flight in which one of the pilots—with an English or Australian accent—appears to have major problems with his laser designator and getting his bombs to land on target. Later on, another pilot makes small talk on the radio about how Australia's KC-30 Multi-Role Tanker-Transport's refueling basket is spectacular, with the pilot wondering what 'special magic' they built into it to make it stand so still during refueling operations. These examples are just a tiny fraction of the interesting chatter that can be heard in the recording.

Finally, we come to the F-117 mission, which occurs at around four hours and thirty minutes into the recording. You get to hear the pilots depart Tonopah and work with SIERA 98, a KC-135R tanker, for refueling training. They even practice an emergency disconnect from the tanker. Then you hear the section of jets split in two with NIGHT 19 heading back to Tonopah for pattern work and the other F-117, NIGHT 17, heading south to what sounds like the southern end of Area 51's test airspace. 


It seems as if NIGHT 17 changed its callsign to DAGER 17 as it headed south, but before that, we hear BLUE BIRD and BLONDE GIRL mentioned, which are likely controllers of some type. Then the F-117 checks in with 'RAMROD' and begins the testing. RAMROD tells the F-117 to 'spin' which usually means begin an orbit, and then we hear commands to execute a series of coded test cards. 

RAMROD sounds like a sensor system of some type. Most likely it is the DYCOMS radar cross-section measurement facility at Area 51, which can surveil and validate the radar signature of an aircraft while in flight and at different angles in relation to the sensors on the ground. It's also possible that RAMROD could be an airborne platform that offers similar signature diagnostic capabilities using an array of sensors.

The F-117 part starts at 4:30:00 into the recording, but the whole thing is very much worth listening to:

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Overall this is an awesome recording that you should listen to in its entirety. Let us know what other interesting tidbits you catch in the discussion area below.

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