This article is about the game. For the aircraft designation, see F-19
F-19 Stealth Fighter is a combat flight simulator released in 1988 (DOS) and 1990 (Amiga and Atari ST) by MicroProse, featuring a fictional United States military aircraft. It is the 16-bit remake of the 8-bit game Project Stealth Fighter, which was released for the Commodore 64 and ZX Spectrum in 1987. In 1992, it was also ported to the NEC PC-9801 in Japan only. Critically acclaimed, the game was followed by Night Hawk: F-117A Stealth Fighter 2.0 in 1991.
In the game, the player takes on the role of a pilot flying missions of varying difficulty over four geographic locations: Libya, the Persian Gulf, the North Cape, and Central Europe. The player was immersed in a Cold War era battlefield, flying missions against Iranian, Libyan, Soviet or Warsaw Pact opponents. The game can be played under conditions of conventional warfare, limited warfare, or cold war (in the latter, even being detected by the enemy could lead to a major diplomatic incident).
Allowing the player to choose appropriate ordnance from a wide range of realistic armaments, the game set standards for realism and authenticity in military aviation simulations, and was noted for the convincing behaviour of AI controlled units such as enemy aircraft, SAM sites and radar stations. These would behave in accordance with the situation - patrolling at first, but launching into a highly aggressive search if the player was detected. Other impressive features of the game were the highly realistic system of radar detection, where the player's varying radar signature was visually compared with the energy of incoming radar pulses at different ranges and powers, and a well thought-out variety of endings appropriate to the outcome of each mission. These include the player being rescued by an V-22 Osprey, a Pravda newspaper headline proclaiming the capture of the pilot, or an outraged ally or neutral nation protesting the destruction of their aircraft.
The pilot roster in the pre-game menu keeps track of the missions, rank, score and medals awarded to each player. Pilot fatalities are permanent, which contributes to the extended campaign feeling of the game.
At the time of the game's release there was heavy speculation surrounding a missing aircraft in the United States Air Force's numbering system, the F-19. This game was based on an educated guess about what the new "stealth fighter" would be like. Subsequent revisions of the game incorporated the actual F-117 Nighthawk as well as the F-19.
After the completion of Project Stealth Fighter for the C-64 by designers Jim Synoski and Arnold Hendrick, Sid Meier and Andy Hollis were brought in to work on the PC conversion. As Hendrick wrote of the new game, "The only thing borrowed from the C-64 would be the game scenario concepts, military equipment research data, and perhaps some flight dynamics algorithms." Despite its planned September 30 release being pushed back to mid-November, F-19 Stealth Fighter went on to be a successful release by MicroProse, selling out in just two months.
The original boxed version of the game came with a range of impressive accessories - such as a thick manual full in information and data on the late 1980s flying machines of the U.S. and the USSR, various keyboard overlays, a comprehensive manual covering stealth and fighter tactics, and roughly-sketched maps of each warzone.
Computer Gaming World gave F-19 Stealth Fighter a very favorable review and acclaimed the game's level of realism, stating that "to master this program you are going to have to do your homework. The documentation includes tutorials on aerodynamics and flight principles, radar, stealth technology, air-to-ground tactics, and air-to-air tactics." The magazine later recognized it as "Simulation Game of the Year", calling it "the perfect marriage of modern technology and game." The game won the Golden Joystick Awards '91 in the categories "Best Simulation - 16 Bit" and "Best Simulation - 8 Bit".
It was ranked as the 29th best Amiga game by Amiga Power in 1991. In 1996, Computer Gaming World ranked it as the 52nd best game of all time.