Spad To The Bone: Texas F-16 Squadron Marks 75th Anniversary With Bold Paint Job

The “Lone Star State” scheme is one of the most flamboyant to have been applied to a USAF jet in recent years.

byThomas Newdick|
U.S. Homeland photo


Already one of the most well-known U.S. Air Force fighter units when it comes to commemorating its heritage, the 457th Fighter Squadron has now gone the extra mile in repainting one of its F-16C Viper fighter jets in the famous colors of its Texas home state. The 457th, nicknamed the “Spads,” is marking 75 years of operations.

The accompanying photos of Block 30 F-16C, serial number 86-0246, painted in its “Lone Star State” scheme were kindly provided to The War Zone by Caulun Belcher, whose other work is well worth looking at on his Instagram page, @TXAVGEEK. He captured the jet during a flight from the 457th Fighter Squadron’s home station of Naval Air Station Joint Reserve Base Fort Worth, formerly known as Carswell Air Force Base, near the city of the same name in Texas’s Tarrant County.

For its 70th anniversary in 2014, the “Spads” put up a memorable two-ship formation over Forth Worth comprising of the currently-flown F-16C and a P-51 Mustang, the first fighter type with which it was equipped.

Although the jet has apparently only recently appeared in its new colors, the 457th Fighter Squadron actually notched up its 75th year in 2019, as referenced by the wording on the tail. The jet’s fin also depicts silhouettes of the fighters flown by the squadron through the decades: P-51 Mustang, F-84 Thunderjet, F-100 Super Sabre, F-105 Thunderchief, F-4 Phantom II, and F-16.

Caulun Belcher
Caulun Belcher
Caulun Belcher

The 457th was first established at Lakeland Army Airfield in Florida in October 1944 as part of the U.S. Army Air Forces (USAAF) and flew its Mustangs in the Pacific theater during World War II. Operating from Iwo Jima and Tinian, the squadron’s P-51s escorted B-29 Superfortress heavy bomber raids on Japan, and also attacked ground targets, before being inactivated in December 1945.

An F-16C from the 457th Fighter Squadron in formation with a P-51 Mustang over Naval Air Station Fort Worth Joint Reserve Base, Texas, in October 2014., U.S. Air Force/Staff Sgt. Ashley Manz

Postwar, the unit’s lineage was resurrected in the then-new U.S. Air Force in November 1952 as the 457th Strategic Fighter Squadron, before successive name changes during the same decade saw it designated a Fighter-Day Squadron, a Fighter-Bomber Squadron, and finally a Tactical Fighter Squadron. During this period, the unit first flew the F-84 Thunderjet and then transitioned to the F-100 Super Sabre. It stood down again in April 1959.

The 457th Tactical Fighter Squadron came back into being as an F-105 unit at Carswell in July 1972, now as a part of the Air Force Reserve, and was finally redesignated as the 457th Fighter Squadron in February 1992, by which time it had already traded in its F-4s for F-16s, the first of which arrived in 1990. Conveniently, the Vipers were manufactured at the co-located Fort Worth factory, now home to the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter production line

Three F-4D Phantom IIs from the 457th Tactical Fighter Squadron break from echelon formation in 1983., NATIONAL ARCHIVES

Missions that followed in the 1990s included participation in enforcing the no-fly zones over Bosnia and Iraq. In 1999, during an Operation Northern Watch deployment, policing the airspace over Iraq, pilots from the 457th became the first from the Air Force Reserve to drop laser-guided bombs from F-16s on a combat mission. 

Today, the 457th is under the Air Force Reserve Command’s 301st Fighter Wing and has, in recent years, deployed in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom, Operation Freedom’s Sentinel in Afghanistan, as well as providing a Theater Security Package in support of Operation Atlantic Resolve. In this last role, 12 of the squadron’s jets were deployed to Câmpia Turzii Air Base in Romania in 2019, working alongside the Romanian Air Force and helping to defend NATO’s frontier in the Black Sea region

With an already busy day-to-day schedule, it's great the airmen of the 457th “Spads” have found the time to mark three-quarters of a century of service in such style. 

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