Luke changes F-16 paint scheme to single color

Move will save Air Force time, money

By Airman 1st Class Brooke Moeder, Special to Independent Newsmedia
Posted 7/8/20

Two-toned F-16C Fighting Falcons are becoming a thing of the past a Luke Air Force Base.

In late June, a team of nine 56th Equipment Maintenance Squadron Low Observable Aircraft Structural …

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Luke changes F-16 paint scheme to single color

Move will save Air Force time, money


Two-toned F-16C Fighting Falcons are becoming a thing of the past at Luke Air Force Base.

In June, a team of nine 56th Equipment Maintenance Squadron Low Observable Aircraft Structural Maintenance personnel painted an F-16C assigned to the 310th Fighter Squadron a solid medium-gray. The process took approximately a week and a half, including sanding, priming and painting.

While the single color is used at other Air Force bases, it represents a first for the 56th Fighter Wing, said Master Sgt. Michael Cleary, LO ASM senior noncommissioned officer in charge. F-16s at Luke traditionally have been painted dark gray on top and light gray on the bottom.

A recent change to the technical data authorized the change in paint scheme, according to Mr. Cleary.

He said painting the aircraft a solid color decreases the total time it takes to repaint the aircraft. The time saved allows airmen to complete other tasks.

“When an aircraft comes in for a full paint, we will most likely be doing one color instead of two,” said Tech. Sgt. Michael Douget, ASM craftsman. “It just makes sense money and time-wise.”

F-16s receive full paints every six to seven years and follow guidance from the technical order, which outlines directions on each project.

It typically takes four airmen a week to sand, prime and paint the aircraft. However, the time repainting aircraft may vary due to different cure times of the primer and paint, which dictate the amount of work that can be done in a day.

“After it’s done drying, we make sure that everybody goes back, takes a look at everything again and makes sure they don’t miss anything,” Mr. Douget said.

Throughout the entire process of painting the aircraft, ASM personnel wear protective equipment to prevent chemicals from entering their body.

“We wear respirators with forced air, tie backs [white suit worn to protect every inch of skin], gas masks, and gloves,” Mr. Douget said. “The respirator filters the air so you’re not breathing in the harmful substances.”

Aside from full paint jobs on aircraft, ASM airmen also provide minor or major touchups on F-16s owned by the U.S. and foreign nationals, add or remove stencils and paint aerospace ground equipment. They also construct name plates for the F-35A Lightning II. Each task takes a different amount of time depending on the varying degree of the task.

“For AGE equipment we strip it for metals technology so they can weld something and we strip for non-destructive inspection so they can inspect something we paint,” Mr. Cleary said. “Sometimes equipment comes in for a full paint because it’s not up to standards or it has to be a different color.”

Corrosion and rain erosion prevention are important considerations for ASM airmen, Mr. Douget said. Humidity is a significant factor in corrosion; fortunately Arizona’s humidity level is low. However, the airmen apply specialized paint to prevent rain erosion on the inlet lip and other parts on an F-16 to provide added protection from corrosion.

“We have to remove any and all corrosion from the aircraft because if you don’t remove all of it, then it will continue to spread,” he said. “That’s really our goal here; to keep that corrosion at bay.”

There’s critical thinking that goes into getting the amount of work done needed to complete the mission. If individuals don’t apply their critical thinking skills, then the mission suffers because we’re not able to do things effectively, Mr. Cleary said.

Painting the F-16 one color versus two is just one example of how the AMS airmen are thinking critically while supporting the mission.

“Our airmen are killing it,” Mr. Douget said. “I appreciate their hard work every single day.”

Editor’s note: Airman 1st Class Brooke Moeder is with the 56th Fighter Wing Public Affairs office at Luke Air Force Base.