After Hours

The first stealth fighter retires, but the game flies on

For a long time, the F-117 was top secret technology. In 1988, Microprose Software created a game called F-19 Stealth Fighter which allowed people to get the first experience with how a stealth fighter works. The F-117 has been retired, but you can check out this blog entry and associated photo gallery to see how the F-19 flies.

The Air Force recently retired the F-117 Nighthawk, the original stealth fighter. Intended to be invisible to the radar of the Soviet Union. the F-117 was designed in the late 1970's. Lockheed Martin won the contract to build the F-117 and delivered the first one back in 1982.

When it first flew, the Air Force refused to acknowledge that the stealth fighter existed. Enough information leaked out about it to the public however people knew that the Air Force was up to something. Before it debuted publicly in 1990, lots of speculation took place about what a stealth airplane would look like.

One of the most popular representations of the stealth fighter was created by the model maker Testors. Knowing there was a gap between the F-18 and the F-20, Testors decided that if a stealth fighter existed it must be called the F-19. In 1986, they created this model:

At the same time, Microprose Software was a designer of popular games for the PC, Commodore 64, and other platforms. One of its most popular games was F-15 Strike Eagle. With all of the commotion around the concept of the stealth fighter and Testor's F-19 model, Microprose decided to create a game called F-19 Stealth Fighter. Microprose used the Testor model as the basis for the stealth fighter used in its game.

I bought a copy of F-19 shortly after Microprose introduced it in 1988. F-15 Strike Eagle had already set the standard for a jet fighter simulation. To create F-19, Microprose took the basic F-15 Strike Eagle game and added stealth elements to it. Rather than just fly in as fast as you could and then wiping out everything in sight, F-19 was aimed in getting you to the target and back without getting identified.

Check out the F-19 Photo Gallery I created that takes a look at what came in the box as well as how state of the art PC gaming graphics looked at the end of the 80's. The game seemed a lot better and a lot more responsive when I first played it 20 years ago. Today, it seems quaint and downright laughable.

Like the F-117 which was once the state of the art in stealth technology but now can't keep up with newer stealth fighters like the F-22 Raptor, Microprose's F-19 can't hold up to the technology of today. Unlike the F-117 however, you can still fire up the F-19 and refight the Cold War any time you want.

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