April 7, 2008 (by A1C Jonathan Snyder) - After swapping out F-16s with Kunsan AB, Airmen of the 354th AMXS sheet metal shop wasted no time in painting the newly-received aircraft with a flanker color scheme.
A1C. Daniel Herbert carefully applies the finishing touches to the state of Alaska stencil design on the tail on March 26th, 2008 at Eielson AFB. Airmen of the sheet metal shop work on stenciling the flag ship tail #86-0314 with unique markings setting it apart from other aggressor aircraft from the 18th AS. [USAF photo by A1C. Jonathan Snyder]
This helps other pilots identify these aircraft as the opposing force during training exercises.
"Our role is simple--to help train new pilots in air-to-air combat, in addition we also teach academics to help educate about the threat or potential threat aircraft, weapons and systems," said Lt. Col. Patrick Welch, 18th Aggressor Squadron commander.
The 18th AGRS
received 18 aircraft which seven of them came unpainted in the swap. Within the squadron there are three different flanker color schemes, which are advanced flanker, flogger flanker and flanker.
Airmen of the sheet metal shop are currently working on their fourth aggressor aircraft. However this one is slightly more unique than the others. It's not just the advance flanker color scheme (also known as arctic flanker scheme) but the font and tail design on the aircraft which designates this as the flag ship, which is flown by the wing commander.
During events and ceremonies the flag ship would be the lead aircraft in these formations.
"The process of painting these aircraft is not an easy task at all and can be very time consuming," said Senior Airman Shawn Martin of the sheet metal shop.
At different stages of the process there can be anywhere between four to seven Airmen working on it at once. They start off with washing the aircraft from top to bottom then masking all the sensitive areas that shouldn't be painted such as the canopy. They then sand down the body apply the primer and then a coat of paint. After it dries, they will then stencil names and numbers, which will identify the aircraft.
This process takes an average of eight days to accomplish per aircraft. With no formal training or design templates on these paint schemes they created their own standard template using photos of other existing aircraft of similar design.
"This was a true learning experience, we have never done anything like this before," said Airman Martin.
Today's project Airmen of the sheet metal shop are adding the final touches to all the lettering and tail stencils so that it will identify this aircraft as the wing commanders flag ship. Adding a drop shadow and highlights, it will give the stencils a three-dimensional look to it. Just like the predecessor flag ship, this one will have close to the same stencil design concept with the state of Alaska on the top of the tail displayed on both sides.
With the 354th Fighter Wing's exercise season in full swing, the 18th AGRS' pilots are ready to show off their specialized training they went through to become an aggressor pilot.
"Our newly painted aircraft looks fantastic and we are proud to fly them. We are proud of our role as aggressor pilots because we have the opportunity to help train and improve other combat air force pilots," said Colonel Welch.