Four F-117A Nighthawk stealth fighters and about 60 people departed 12 October 2002 from Holloman Air Force Base to Europe for a two-week exercise known as Operation Coronet Nighthawk.The KC-10s from McGuire Air Force Base, N.J., also transported the support troops for the exercise.
The Air Force said the late-evening announcement was designed to squelch any rumors that could result from people seeing the planes take off from Holloman or land elsewhere, and thinking the planes were bound for possible action against Iraq. "This is completely to conduct training for our worldwide deployable assets," said Maj. Tina Barber-Matthew, public-affairs chief at Holloman. The presence of the sleek, single-seat warplane in the region has generated intense interest from the local population, who believe the aircraft are here in support of an operation in Iraq, local news reports said.
The planes were headed for locations including Rota, Spain; RAF Lakenheath, United Kingdom; Naval Air Station Sigonella, Italy; and Spangdahlem Air Base, Germany. The exercise allows U.S.-based stealth fighter air crews an opportunity to familiarize themselves with Air Force operations in the European region. The exercise also helps Air Force personnel in Europe practice supporting the F-117A.
Stealth fighters last were deployed in the European theater in 1999, when 24 of the precision-strike aircraft deployed in support of Operation Allied Force, the bombing campaign against the Yugoslavia republic of Serbia.
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