By Tom Demerly for The Aviationist
Special paint schemes on combat aircraft are common enough now that it is impossible to report on them all, but this beautiful F-16C (Block 30) from the 149th Fighter Wing of the Texas Air National Guard stands out for a few reasons.
This single seat F-16C, flown by USAF Colonel Timothy J. Madden, Commanding Officer of the 149th Fighter Wing, Texas ANG, wears a new paint scheme for the upcoming 70th anniversary celebrations of the U.S. Air Force this coming September 18th. The aircraft was first photographed at the U.S. Air National Guard Aircraft Paint Facility in Sioux City, Iowa on May 26th, 2017.
The aircraft is painted to mimic the livery of a Republic P-47D Thunderbolt from 1944. Interestingly, this scheme dates from when the Air Force, was still known as the U.S. Army Air Forces. The organization didn’t become fully independent from the Army until late 1947.
The 149th Fighter Wing holds a number of significant firsts in Air Force history, including being the first unit to perform midair refueling during a combat mission and the first Air National Guard unit to shoot down a MiG in combat. Both of these firsts happened during the Korean conflict.
As with the WWII-era P-47D Thunderbolt it is patterned after, this F-16C wears not only the bright yellow markings, but also the striking black and white “invasion stripes” painted on all Allied aircraft in the days just prior to the D-Day Invasion of June 6th, 1944. The black and white stripes helped to quickly identify the planes as Allied aircraft to friendly forces, and lessened the chances of fratricide as a result. In 2015, the Royal Air Force painted invasion stripes on a Typhoon combat aircraft based at RAF Coningsby to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the D-Day landings.
The special livery on this F-16C is likely to become popular with aviation photographers, since it stands out in most lighting conditions, even in overcast, and the distinctive mix of invasion stripes and yellow squadron regalia is visible from any angle. No matter which flight attitude the aircraft is in, it remains highly recognizable.
However, this is not the first time that a USAF F-16 has worn invasion stripes to commemorate a P-47 unit from WWII. Back in 2014, F-16C Fighting Falcon 84-1264 received an orange tail and invasion stripe heritage paint scheme to honor the 358th Fighter Group of WWII. The F-16’s modern unit, the 122nd Fighter Wing, traces its roots back to this unit in WWII. The original 358th FG flew P-47s and operated over Europe both before and after D-Day.
While the Air Force has given no official word about which air shows this aircraft will appear in, it will hopefully perform at events throughout the summer, both in Texas and around the region in celebration of the 70th anniversary of the U.S. Air Force.
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Museum piece if we can steal it from the AF! Otherwise it will be scrapped.