We were the first to report on the 18th Aggressor Squadron's peculiar matte black painted F-16C aggressor that first appeared during exercise Red Flag Alaska last August. We found out through multiple sources, including via correspondence with Eielson Air Force Base where the 18th AGRS is based, that the sinister looking jet with an SR-71 Blackbird like motif was never meant to be.
The aircraft was painted overall matte black with the idea being that it would receive the rest of its multi-tone "splinter" style paint job before taking to the flightline for aggressor duties. One source says this black base coat was applied during a visit to the depot following a major inspection and overhaul. Things didn't work out exactly as planned and the aircraft was rushed into flying adversary support missions without its paint job being completed by the paint barn at Eielson—which is becoming notorious for its awesome aggressor schemes.
The 18th AGRS is slowly having their fleet of Block 30 F-16s painted with different variations of the striking "splinter" camouflage scheme. Here is their first jet to wear a variation of the pattern:
Eielson AFB's public affairs shop stated the following in an email exchange with The War Zone that occurred in August:
"The flat black paint color on the F-16 Aggressor is a basecoat in preparation for the new forest green "splinter" paint scheme. The black basecoat is the first step in preparing the aircraft for the remaining 2-week paint process."
Fast forward a couple months and the once ebony Viper has finally gotten its new look, and it's absolutely awesome.
The paint job harkens back to my favorite paint scheme ever applied to a F-16, the "Viggen" inspired splinter scheme that a couple of the Navy's short lived F-16N aggressors wore during the late 1980s and early 1990s. The green color is also reminiscent of the USAF's still-born initiative to field close air support optimized F-16s sporting 30mm cannon pods.
Painting one of these aggressor jets is not a simple nor easy task as we have talked about in detail before. According to a USAF press release about Eielson's new splinter clad aggressors, Tech. Sgt. Augustus White, the 354th Maintenance Squadron structural maintenance repair section NCO in charge stated the following:
“Typically, to fully repaint an aircraft it takes about a week to two-weeks... This process takes a lot of man-power so we run a three shift operation to get it done.”
Both USAF and Navy aggressor untis have been experimenting more audaciously with various aggressor scheme in recent years, most notably since the relationship with Russia took a nose dive following the country's invasion of Crimea. The "splinter" scheme has been worn by various Russian tactical jets over the years, including the new T-50 fighter, although it has largely been relegated to development and test aircraft.
Green, brown, and black tones on the other hand are used by many potentially hostile air forces around the globe, including the Islamic Republic of Iran Air Force. Venezuela also flies their own F-16s in very similar tones.
Another F-16 was supposedly also painted matte black at the same time as this specimen and will receive another "splinter" motif. So we will keep an eye out for that jet, although it will be tough for team Eielson to outdo themselves again by the looks of 86-0295.
Great job to all those involved. Keep them coming!
Contact the author: Tyler@thedrive.com