This is how the F-117A was shot down in Serbia by a SA-3 (S-75) Goa SAM in 1999

One F-117 has been lost in combat, to Serbian/Yugoslav forces. On March 27, 1999, during the Kosovo War, the 3rd Battalion of the 250th Missile Brigade under the command of Colonel Zoltán Dani, equipped with the Isayev S-125 ‘Neva-M’ (NATO designation SA-3 ‘Goa’), downed F-117A serial number 82-806 with a Neva-M missile. According to NATO Commander Wesley Clark and other NATO generals, Yugoslav air defenses found that they could detect F-117s with their “obsolete” Soviet radars operating on long wavelengths.

This, combined with the loss of stealth when the jets got wet or opened their bomb bays, made them visible on radar screens. The pilot, Lt Col Dale Zelko, survived and was later rescued by NATO forces. On the aircraft, the name Captain Ken “Wiz” Dwelle printed caused confusion on the identity of the pilot.  Later, the wreckage of the F-117 was not promptly bombed, and the Serbs are believed to have invited Russian personnel to inspect the remains, inevitably compromising the US stealth technology.

The SAMs were most likely guided manually with the help of thermal images and laser rangefinders included in the Pechora-M variant of the SA-3s believed to have been used. Reportedly several SA-3s were launched, one of which detonated in close proximity to the F-117A, forcing the pilot to eject. According to an interview,  Zoltán Dani was able to keep most of his missile sites intact and had a number of spotters spread out looking for F-117s and other aircraft.

Zoltán and his missile crews guessed the flight paths of earlier F-117As from occasional visual and radar spotting and judging from this information and what target had just been bombed, Zoltán and his missile battery determined the probable flight path of F-117A. His missile crews and spotters were then able to locate it and fire their missiles. Zoltán also claims to have modified his radars to better detect the F-117A, but he has not disclosed what was changed. Parts of the shot-down aircraft are now presented to the public in the Museum of Yugoslav Aviation in Belgrade.

Some sources claim a second F-117A was also damaged during a raid in the Kosovo War, and although it made it back to its base, it never flew again. Yugoslavian air defenses were seen as relatively obsolete.

Some pieces of the F-117’s wreckage are preserved at the Serbian Museum of Aviation in Belgrade, other pieces of wreckage were reportedly sent to Russia, to be used in developing anti-stealth technology. The USAF retired the F-117 in 2008.

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About Larkins Dsouza

Founded Defence Aviation, clean freak, loves everything aviation, serendipitous & loves to create something new.
  • Anonymous

    i heard a rumor in serbia that the f117A was easy to spot because it had an enterouge of visible aircraft around it. prob f16s. on the radar, u could imagine, seeing four dots in the shape of a circle. the soldier operating the battery was told to concentrate on the black space on the radar in the centre of the surrounding dots/aircraft. he was told to shoot at the black space when in range. next thing u know it an invisible f117A was destroyed.

    • Zoltan Dani


      • joe

        Are you the person that downed that f-117?

    • anon411

      No Aircraft is invisible to radar, not even “stealth” aircraft. They show up on radars, it’s just the size that is different.

  • Larkins

    @AnonymousBR/BR/Wow… Never heard that before. Thanks for bringing it up.

  • Anonymous

    This is not important, but for dots cannot form a circle. 🙂

  • Anonymous

    This can not be the case as this would almost certainly compromise its cover. They always flew alone.

  • Anonymous

    No I can see the logic, the defenders are meant to concentrate on the obvious targets thus not realising there is a fifth invisible target in the middle.BR/BR/Not exactly great logic, but this is the American air force we are talking about.

  • achilis

    those f-16s which were supposed to give cover to that f-117 would hav been atleast 5000 feet above and behind the 117…not in a circular formation at the same altitude around it…..that is the usual way of givin air cover for any bomber….so i dont think the logic u posted is from a reliable source…

  • Luis

    First of all F117 should'n use cover aircraft. What is the sense of the stealth technology then? And all those things are just speculations. Here is another. Russians knowing US was going to bomb Serbia problably gave them some tips about how to spot them. Pretty sure they knew how by then.

    • Blue Beam

      It is not invisible, a fighter can jump it on a chance encounter. As well as the Americans allowed it to get shot down. Notice how they didn’t bomb the wreckage. They wanted the Russkies to examine it in order that they could build countermeasures or stealth aircraft of their own. And then the Americans could build more sophisticated ones at great profit.

      • Vincent Ang Giap Hor

        What rubbish. The Yanks were too scared shitless to go in after their very modern F-117 got taken out by a Soviet system from the early 1960’s.

        • Blue Beam

          Colonels aren’t top flight scientists who can modify sophisticated equipment to defeat supposedly alien technology. Top flight technology which not even their scientists knew much about. Use your head. The whole thing smells fishy. In addition, they sent in lowly helicopters to rescue the pilot. If they could send in helicopters, they could’ve bombed the wreckage.

  • Incorrect.

    It was detected by algorithm techniques of multi phase plotting of TV and radio-station signals.
    That is why the USA started bombing civilian stations, increasing the loss of innocent life.

    Another sotry I have heard, but cannot confirm is that the mig21 closed to guns range – and had a spray at the fighter.
    Either or – it's toast. Further more, it proved techniques for detecting stealth fighters – which have advanced considerably.
    Read more about harmonics – and parasitic adaptive antennae elements using fuzzy logic control circuits.

    When is a stealth plane not a stealth plane? When it is an American strealth plane!

    • joe

      This is the dumbest thing i have ever heard nobody comes up with that shit in the field and even if they did they wouldn't use it until its thoroughly tested, and than they would be using military equipment set up to do the same thing but military owned and military spec. u want proof think about it what commander would ever let his men put down a piece of equipment capable of detecting everything else (which there are many) but stealth fighters which there are very few to MABEY shoot one down all on some tech guys idea/theory. I call bs a mig could have shot one down if it had visiual but they probobly got it by luck using the same tactics they used for the u2 and sr71 shoot everything including the kitchen sink at it and hopefully one may hit it. and as for your last comment when is there a stealth plane? ONLY when the US builds one the commies went broke trying to keep up with spending to develope and or steal it from the US and all they could do was come up with some half assed copies that didnt work and went the way of everything else in there now paper arsenal. There isnt any country within 20 years of the US capabilities in the aerospace community period the chinese and russians are closest still with there gen 5 fighters and they have the looks down but thats about it. its not whats on the outside that makes it a gen 5 its the little things inside that nobody else but the US seems to be able to get right.

      • Mike Lacey

        I suggest you investigate the Eurofighter Typhoon,Joe.

        Pretty decent aircraft and far, far cheaper than the F-35…

        • Jon

          Agreed. The Typhoon is a solid aircraft but nowhere near the capabilities of the F-35.

          • Icorrectidiots

            Very true the Eurofighter can actually maneuver reliably and is capable of defending itself properly in A2A. The F-35 has no where near that capability. It’s just a bomb wagon for 2-4 bombs.

          • 123

            f-35? AHAHHAhahahah that piece of junk 😀

          • ????? ?????? ?????? ?? ?????? ?????? ????? ????? ???????. ???? ?? ?? ?????? ?? ????????? ????? ?? ???? ?????? ??? ?? ?? ?????? ???? ?? ???? ?????? ?????????? ??????.

            ?? ?? ?? ????????? ?? ????????? ????? ???? ?????????? ????? ????. ?????? ?? ?? ?????? ?? ?? ???????? ??????? ????, ???? ?????? ???????? ? ????? ??????? ???? ?? ??? ??????? ????? ? ???? ? ?? ??? ????????? ????? ?? ????? ?? ?? ??????? ????????? ??? ????? ????? ??????? ???????.

  • Zoltan

    I heard he modified the radar by changing capacitors so it can operate at longer wavelengths.

  • Blaze

    I heard a fling saucer shot it down

  • Srbin

    1.000.000 $ And I tell you how it downed 🙂

  • Srbin

    I discovery one detail,not used any radar 😉

    • Otkrio si ti da imaš nešto tamno braon u rektumu. To si is?eprkao prstima i onda si stavio u usta. Pomiriši sad svoje usrane prste govedo jedno drogirano. Mrš na brdo sa kojeg si pobegao ?obanine jedan, idi jebi svoje koze kao što su to radili i tvoji preci niža raso. Beskorisni skote žvalavi.


        Sefik Miladin….u jebo te, koji si ti kurac – crnogorski siptar ili obrnuto?
        Ne laj pseto poturceno. Tvoji preci su njegovog porekla. Sem toga, muslimani vole jebat jarce. Znaci to ti dodje neka gej zoofilija…hahaha.
        Posto je on “beskorisni skot zvalavi”, ti is onda zaostali obrezani turski isprdak sto veruje u neke imaginarne prijatelje, a jedan od njih je pedofil sa 9 zena. Znas mu ime sigurno…
        Da sam ja ti, odavno bi se ubio. Ne znam sta ti cekas…
        Odo sad da ti jedem mamu, tek izvadjenu ispod saca. 😉

        • Ne znam u kom ti svetu živiš ali kod mene se ljudi ne dele po pripadnosti tim plemenskim i prizemnim ?obanskim podelama. Veoma si prost i vulgaran kako i dolikuje jednom prostom ?obaninu. Samo ti nastavi da timariš svoje koze i budi ponizan smradu jedan ogavni.


        A ti si Rambo iz Yugoslavje…izvini nisam te prepoznao!
        Jao, pa ti mora da si jako zabavan na rodjendanima… hahaha.

  • jon senior

    the plane was detected because we were only allowed 1 corridor to enter / exit the AOR. When you know the route they will take it’s very easy to train all of your systems along that path….


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