Story by Senior Master Sgt. Vincent De Groot
185th Air Refueling Wing, Iowa Air National Guard
A black and grey, U.S. Air Force A-10 Thunderbolt II from the Indiana Air National Guard’s 122nd Fighter Wing recently rolled out from a repaint at the Air National Guard Paint Facility in Sioux City, Iowa. In a departure from the standard tactical two-tone grey livery, the Blacksnakes of the 122nd Fighter Wing conceived a sleek commemorative design to celebrate 100 years of aviation in the Indiana National Guard.
Indiana’s two Air National Guard units, the 122nd FW in Fort Wayne and 181st Intelligence Wing in Terre Haute, both have a long history of flying single seat fighter aircraft in the Hoosier State. Consequently, the design for the A-10’s new paint scheme venerates both the Blacksnakes of the 122nd FW and the Racers of the 181st IW.
The new livery is a mixture of black and dark grey with colors breaking along standard A-10 paint lines on the wings, engines and fuselage. The aircraft’s nose is wreathed with a distinctive 122nd FW green-eyed snake, complete with fangs, surrounding the aircraft’s seven-barrel 30mm autocannon. One side of the aircraft has a 122nd FW fin flash with the text, “Fort Wayne” embossed in yellow over Indiana state-flag-blue background, while the opposite fin shows a Racers checkered flag with the text “Terre Haute” of the disbanded 181st Fighter Wing, now the 181st Intelligence Wing.
The A-10’s distinctive engine nacelles are embossed with an Indiana ANG centennial logo displaying the text “Indiana Air National Guard” under a large number “100” with the years “1921-2021.”
Although the Air National Guard was not officially established as a separate service until 1946, some ANG units like the 122nd can trace their beginnings to the interwar period between 1918 and 1941. Following the First World War, the War Department recognized the necessity of including aviation in national defense. The Indiana National Guard began their flying mission in 1921 with the establishment of the 137th Observation Squadron, based initially at Fagley Field in Kokomojust north of Indianapolis, Indiana.
Now located in Fort Wayne, the 122nd FW has been flying single-seat fighter aircraft for most of its history. Presently, the Blacksnakes are equipped with the Fairchild A-10 Thunderbolt II, which they use primarily for close air support missions. Master Sgt. William Hopper, 122nd Fighter Wing Public Affairs Superintendent, noted that the 122nd adopted the Blacksnake moniker from the Revolutionary War figure, Anthony Wayne, who is also the namesake for the city of Fort Wayne. Also known as “Mad” Anthony Wayne, Wayne received the title “Black Snake” from Native Americans. Wayne was known for a methodical fighting style in which he instructed soldiers to lie in wait for the right moment to strike, similarly to the actions of a North American black snake. “The Blacksnakes are proud of the name’s historical significance and connection it gives us to our local community and home town of Fort Wayne,” said Hopper.
This Indiana Air Guard A-10, with its unique paint scheme, may soon begin showing up at air shows, where it will help promote the mission and heritage of the Air National Guard. Units of the Air Force and Air National Guard can get permission to temporarily paint non-standard markings on aircraft as part of unit heritage and/or morale programs. The 122nd FW’s A-10 paint scheme is one of several commemorative liveries recently completed by the ANG paint facility as many Air Guard units have been celebrating significant anniversaries in recent years. The Air National Guard paint facility is part of the Iowa Air National Guard’s 185th Air Refueling Wing in Sioux City; they have been painting small fighter aircraft since the 1990’s.