US Navy Adversary Hornet Emerges Wearing Russia’s Latest Combat Jet Scheme

One of VFC-12’s Hornets has been spotted in the charcoal and blue paint scheme made famous by Russia’s Su-34 Fullback.

byTyler Rogoway|
F/A-18 photo


America’s aggressor squadrons are a colorful bunch. Nearly half a century in existence, these units’ aircraft have worn a wide variety of camouflage schemes, including those they could face in air combat. One of the Navy’s adversary support units, VFC-12 “Omars” based out of NAS Oceana in Virginia, has led the way in mimicking the latest adversary paint schemes in recent years.

Known for its “Ambush” callsign, VFC-12 has played the enemy for decades so that east coast Navy fighter squadrons can hone their air-to-air skills against as realistic an aerial adversary as possible. A couple years ago, as the unit transitioned from F/A-18C/Ds to F/A-18A/B+s, it started painting its Hornets in an awesome monochromatic “splinter” style camo scheme like the ones worn by Russia’s T-50, and at the time the not yet operational Su-35.

One of the Omars' "splinter" Hornets. In the past most of VFC-12's jets wore a blue and white Flanker scheme. , USN

The USAF’s 65th Aggressor Squadron quickly followed suit, fielding its own blue, white and gray version of the splinter scheme. Now that the 65th has been shuttered and its eclectically painted F-15C/Ds have been sent to other units, its sister unit, the 64th Aggressor Squadron, has applied the same scheme to some of its F-16s.

Now team Ambush has painted one of its Hornets in a newer Russian paint scheme that has become prevalent across the country’s tactical aircraft fleet—some of which are flying above war-torn Syria.

Originally, this charcoal gray on top / sky blue on the bottom motif appeared on the platypus-nosed Su-34 Fullback, and the big fighter-bomber wears it well, but now other Flanker derivatives like the Su-30 and Su-35 have also donned the same paint scheme. Even Russia’s Su-25 Frogfoots and some of their helicopter forces are painted in this charcoal tone, and with bright red stars contrasted on their tails they sure do look foreboding.

Deploying this replica paint scheme on American adversary aircraft makes a lot of sense, not just because it continues with a long tradition of emulating Russian paint schemes, but because American pilots are actually encountering aircraft painted just like this over Syria.  

Now maybe Top Gun/NSAWC will paint one of their F-16s this way. That would look exceptionally sinister.

An Su-34 Fullback operating out of Russia's growing airfield in Syria., AP

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