Four F-117 Nighthawks from the 410th FLTS,
including #79-10784 "Scorpion 5", #79-10783
"Pete's Dragon", #85-0811 & #85-0831, fly
over the R2508 range. 4/20/07
Photo: Bobbi Zapka
8/5/2008 - Palmdale, CA -- After more than 27 years
and 8,000 flight test hours, the 410th Flight Test
Squadron has finally closed its historic chapter
during an inactivation ceremony Aug. 1 at the U.S. Air
Force Plant 42 in Palmdale, CA, bringing a final end
to the F-117 in the USAF.
The 410th FLTS was responsible for performing flight
test missions for the F-117 Nighthawk -- the world's
first operational aircraft designed to exploit
low-observable stealth technology.
"I wish we would have stayed and opened longer, but
it is time to go," said Lt. Col. Dwayne Opella, who
also relinquished the 410th FLTS command during the
inactivation ceremony. "I am saddened with the
shutdown of this unit and the retirement of F-117. But
I couldn't think of being more honored than be listed
as the last commander of the 410th Flight Test
During the ceremony, Colonel Opella gave his thanks
to Team Edwards, Lockheed Martin, the Combined Test
Force's former and current members, both civilians and
"I also want to thank my wife and kids for their
support," he said. "And finally, I want to thank the
men and women of the (410th FLTS). I will always
remember all of you, and I am proud of knowing each
and every one of you."
The Air Force is retiring the F-117 fleet as part of
a recapitalization and modernization program. The
aircraft is being replaced by the F-22 Raptor.
"The history of the F-117 is pretty famous," said
Colonel Opella. "The entire combat mission and
everything it has done in support of our nation's
defense are documented in books and articles."
The 410th FLTS traces back its history in 1980 when
Air Force and Lockheed-Martin personnel were tapped to
form a "black world" Joint Test Force, unofficially
named Baja Scorpions. The JTF received its first
shipment containing a disassembled prototype YF-117A
in January 1981. In 1983, the Joint Test Force was
reorganized as a Combined Test Force.
In April 1992, the unit moved to the U.S. Air Force
Plant 42 in Palmdale, Calif. The following year, the
unit's operational control was transferred to the
412th Test Wing at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif., and
officially became the 410th Flight Test Squadron.
Some of the 410th FLTS's accomplishments include
providing support for contingency operations during
the invasion of Panama in 1989, Operation Desert
Storm, Operation Allied Force and Operation Iraqi
"We say goodbye to an amazing group and leader," said
Col. Mike Panarisi, 412th Operations Group commander,
during the ceremony. "I was privileged to join the
team here a couple of weeks ago for their goodbye
soiree. You could just see the pride in everyone's
eyes. It is a true testimony of what Colonel Opella
had accomplished with these folks. I couldn't be
happier for the team."
Other guest speakers include Cheryl O'Leary, Lockheed
Martin executive vice president and site general
manager, and George Zeilsdorff, Lockheed Martin vice
president for U-2 and F-117 programs.
"It has been a true partnership with the Air Force
and Lockheed Martin," Ms. O'Leary said. "This is a sad
day, but we need to move forward to the next
generation. (The 411th FLTS) have set the standard for
excellence for others to follow."
Mr. Zeilsdorff said the 410th FLTS is a history of
"enormous accomplishments with influence on a huge
number of next generation systems."
"It is a history of self-sacrifice for the good of
the Air Force and the nation," he said. "I salute each
and every member of this terrific organization, both
past and present."
Source: USAF Edwards AFB Press Release by Senior
Airman Julius Delos Reyes