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Kunsan Airmen paint arctic F-16s for Eielson

by Staff Sgt. Alice Moore
8th Fighter Wing Public Affairs

12/7/2007 - KUNSAN AIR BASE, South Korea (AFPN)  -- Airmen from the 8th Maintenance Squadron corrosion shop recently completed painting an arctic scheme on one of their F-16 Fighting Falcons -- a first for Kunsan and soon Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska.

In October, Kunsan received its initial group of Block 40 F-16 aircraft under the Common Configuration Implementation Program from Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska. In return, Eielson would be getting Kunsan's Block 30 F-16s to be used as aggressor aircraft for its training exercises. To help assist Eielson with this swap, Airmen from the 8th MXS corrosion shop accepted the task of painting F-16 planes with an arctic scheme.

"When the initial request to paint this jet at our facility came in from PACAF, we immediately accepted the challenge," said Maj. David Seitz, 8 MXS maintenance operations officer. "All we needed was paint and technical data. The data sent to us was one piece of paper with a five-inch, three-sided schematic. Our professional maintainers were able to translate that small drawing into an actual F-16."

With no technical data for an arctic scheme, Major Seitz said the maintainers researched existing technical orders on the best method for applying multiple colors and the two-colored stencils required to produce the finished product. The colors and type of paint are new to the Air Force inventory, which presented challenges welcomed by the Airmen.

"This required round-the-clock paint crews from start to finish, as the colors must be applied while the previous color is still wet," Major Seitz said.

The job entailed sanding the old paint off the aircraft, putting primer to help the paint hold better, and applying the new paint scheme colors, said Senior Airman Kevin Stevens, 8 MXS aircraft structural maintenance journeyman.

"This was a good learning experience," he said. "We were able to work with colors and paint we've never worked with. I was happy with the end result."

The white, black and gray aircrafts will be used as aggressor planes assigned to Eielson for training exercises to include Red Flag Alaska.

Currently the Air Force has three aggressor squadrons that have the mission of replicating potential adversary aircraft in order to provide training for U.S. and coalition combat air forces, said Col. Eddie Osteen, 354th Operations Group deputy commander. There are three different paint schemes applied to Eielson's aggressors to be used throughout the year.

"The aggressor paint scheme is used to help 'friendly' aircraft visually differentiate the 'enemy' aircraft from other friendly F-16s. This is critical to prevent fratricide when blue and red forces merge into a visual fight," Colonel Osteen said.

The Pacific Alaska Range Complex is the training area for Red Flag-Alaska and comprises mountains, wooded hills and tundra, Colonel Osteen said. The colors there range from green to brown in the summer and white when the snow hits the ground during winter. The colors do not represent any specific type of aircraft or country.

"They (colors) are merely a way to quickly identify the aggressor aircraft when within visual range. The variety of paint schemes will make it more challenging to visually acquire the aggressor aircraft depending on the background, be it sky or earth," the colonel said.

Most of Eielson's new fleet of aircraft is being repainted as aircraft undergo Falcon Star structural modifications in South Korea, which will extend the service life of the F-16s, but the efforts of Kunsan Airmen have ensured Eielson receives enough aggressor-painted aircraft available to meet the base's needs, said Lt. Col. Mark Murphy 354th Maintenance Group deputy commander.

"Kunsan's contributions have been critical to our ability to prepare for the 2008 Red Flag-Alaska schedule. Eielson's Airmen will make up some of the difference, but even at full capacity our corrosion hangar doesn't have the ability to close the flashes on five aircraft and completely repaint two jets in the arctic paint scheme, which is no easy task with their (Eielson Airmen) workload," Colonel Murphy said. "Thanks to Kunsan's generous assistance, Eielson should have 14 aggressor-painted aircraft available to meet April's Red Flag schedule, which wouldn't have been possible otherwise."

Major Seitz said the work put in by the corrosion shop resulted in a great product.

"Our experts overcame several challenges to produce a truly unique F-16 that will test aircrews participating in Red Flag Alaska for decades to come," he said. "I'm truly proud to serve with these 'make it happen' Airmen."

The corrosion shop is currently working on the third arctic scheme F-16 that will be used in Red Flag Alaska 2008.

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