EIELSON AIR FORCE BASE, Alaska --
January 20, 1974, marked a momentous occasion for the U.S. Air Force as Phil Oestricher, a General Dynamics test pilot, strapped into the cockpit of the F-16 prototype and prepared to take off. The first flight lasted mere moments and only made it a few feet off the ground.
Since then, the F-16 Fighting Falcon has improved by leaps and bounds to become the aircraft it is today. More than 4,500 jets have been built since their first production in 1978 and are based at more than 80 locations worldwide.
One of those locations happens to be right here on Eielson, which houses more than 20 F-16’s. These aircraft are used by the 18th Aggressor Squadron to provide critical combat training to pilots around the globe. Due to their goal of threat replication, the 18th AGRS aircraft are painted to match that of possible enemy fighter aircraft and have flown with their current paint scheme for more than a decade.
A lot can change in a decade, to include the appearance of the force being replicated. To accommodate this difference, the 18th AGRS will be updating their paint scheme.
“We’ve been flying a legacy scheme for a number of years and will be changing to a new one called ‘Splinter’,” said Lt. Col Brian Ford, the 354th Maintenance Group deputy commander. “The reason we’re switching to the new paint scheme is to better replicate the enemies our pilots could encounter.”
This new paint scheme will take time to implement on all the aircraft due to the time consuming process.
“Typically, to fully repaint an aircraft it takes about a week to two-weeks,” said Tech. Sgt. Augustus White, the 354th Maintenance Squadron structural maintenance repair section NCO in charge. “This process takes a lot of man-power so we run a three shift operation to get it done.”
With the hard work from Icemen at the structural maintenance repair section, one aircraft is already sporting its new look.
“The first aircraft with the new scheme is operational, with plans to have another finished in a couple weeks, which is our flagship,” said Ford.
Expect to see a few fresh looking paint jobs out on the flightline in the coming months, especially as Eielson begins gearing up for RED FLAG-Alaska season, where U.S. forces and their allies will continue to receive adversary training with a more accurate representation of real-world threat aircraft.