Cold War Samurai – The 14th Tactical Fighter Squadron, 1987 – 1991

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14TFS Viper Camouflage and Markings

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Camouflage

The F-16C Block 30 aircraft which originally equipped the 14th TFS in 1987 were painted in standard F-16C Viper three-tone gray camouflage scheme applied at the factory at Ft. Worth. The colors used were Medium Gray FS 36270 and Light Gray FS 36375 overall, with Dark Gray FS 36118 on the top. External stores such as missile rails, bomb or missile racks and fuel tanks were Light Gray 36375.

Although common references don’t often define the color of the radome, one Japanese scale modeling source (Fujimi 1/72 scale F-16C/D kit, 1988) indicates Gray FS 36320 was the shade of gray used on the radome (which was coated, not painted, according to at least one source), this shade being somewhat darker than the light and medium grays, but not as dark as the Dark gray on top.

F-16 Three-Color camouflage paint scheme (Courtesy Cybermodeler Online)

F-16 Three-Color camouflage paint scheme three-view (Courtesy Cybermodeler Online)

In a change of demarcation for the F-16C Block 30s, as compared to the earlier F-16s, the dark gray color on the upper fuselage was extended further forward past and beneath the hinged portion of the canopy. The hinged area of the canopy was also painted dark gray. Further, the leading edge of the lower portion of the vertical stabilizer (some call it a ‘skunk stripe’) received a topping of Dark Gray, including the prominent UHF antenna. It’s not clear if this was a PACAF directed demarcation, given the natural desire to have an overall darker top surface to help conceal an aircraft viewed from above in flights over the ocean.

Side vie of F-16 camouflage scheme showing fuselage and tail demarcations for the dark gray color (Courtesy USAF SIG website)

Side view of F-16 three-color camouflage scheme showing fuselage and tail demarcations for the dark gray color (Courtesy USAF SIG website)

These basic colors were subject to the usual wear and tear of life, for example the fading under the sun, or the grime that can accumulate as aircraft do get dirty, so over time the shades and hues could vary somewhat from the factory-fresh standard.

This three-color paint scheme remained in use through the 14TFS time in the Cold War. USAF Air Depot-level maintenance shifted to a simpler two-color camouflage paint scheme (FS 36270 overall and FS 36118 on top) for F-16s undergoing periodic depot maintenance at the Ogden Air Logistics Center at Hill AFB, Utah, beginning in the early 1990s, circa 1993-1994, after the Cold War had ended.

Unit Markings

The original 14TFS squadron markings consisted of a two-row, black and yellow, checkered band near the top of the vertical stabilizer, just below the bulge atop the fin. The band of black and yellow checks started with black at the leading edge. Photographic evidence indicates this marking was applied Stateside before the factory-fresh jets arrived at Misawa.  A full-color 14TFS Samurai patch was located on the right side of the engine intake, and appears from the photographic record to have been applied once the aircraft reached Misawa.

14TFS F-16D 85-1573 with self-loading cargo aboard.  Note color decal markings for 14TFS and PACAF emblems, as well as original location of yellow and black checkered band on tail.  The unique 432TFW low vis emblem has not been applied yet, suggesting this is a view of the aircraft shortly after its arrival at Misawa in 1987. (14TFS web log)

14TFS F-16D 85-1573 with self-loading cargo aboard. Note color decal markings for 14TFS and PACAF emblems, as well as original location of yellow and black checkered band on tail. The unique 432TFW low vis emblem has not been applied yet, suggesting this is a view of the aircraft shortly after its arrival at Misawa in 1987. (14TFS web log)

Additional unit markings consisted of a full-color 432d TFW wing emblem on the left intake opposite the Samurai patch (as can be seen on 14TFS F-16C 85-1549 up at the banner position of this web log), also applied after the aircraft reached Misawa.

The emblem of the 14th Tactical Fighter Squadron

The emblem of the 14th Tactical Fighter Squadron as worn during the late Cold War period at Misawa Air Base, Japan (Courtesy 14TFS web log)

By 1988 a distinctive “Fruit Bat” rendered in light gray on the fuselage was added abaft the cockpit. The “Fruit Bat” was a stylized depiction of the black owl found in the wing patch.

The emblem of the 432nd Tactical Fighter Wing (432TFW) at Misawa Air Base, Japan, during the late Cold War period.  The figure depicted is a stylized owl.  (Courtesy 14TFS web log)

The emblem of the 432nd Tactical Fighter Wing (432TFW) at Misawa Air Base, Japan, during the late Cold War period. The figure depicted is a stylized owl. (Courtesy 14TFS web log)

A Japanese scale model company (Fujimi) referred to the wing insignia as a “Black Owl” in their 1/72-scale F-16C/D-model kit released in 1988, though this web log writer never heard any USAF personnel refer to this moniker. But “Black Owl” (even though it was gray on the jet) does sound better than “Fruit Bat.”

432TFW wing flagship F-16C circa 1988, showing the "Black owl:" (aka "Fruit bat" distinctive wing insignia carried aft of the cockpity area.  Note the wing's two fighter squadrons' emblems on the engine intake, and identification of the wing commander, Col John Lorber, on the canopy rail.  (Courtesy Fujimi)

432TFW wing flagship F-16C 85-1432 circa 1988, showing the “Black Owl:” (aka “Fruit bat” distinctive wing insignia carried aft of the cockpit area. Note the wing’s two fighter squadrons’ emblems on the engine intake, and identification of the wing commander, Col John Lorber, on the canopy rail. (Courtesy Fujimi)

A given pilot’s rank and name was typically painted on the left canopy rail, as can be seen in the image immediately above, with the dedicated crew chief’s rank and name on the right canopy rail, as can be seen in various views. Since there were typically more pilots than planes in the squadron, it was a welcome development when one’s name made it on the canopy rail.

Last of the Misawa unit markings to describe was the two-letter code assigned to the wing: MJ, located on both sides of the vertical stabilizer. The squadron flagship, 85-1414, carried 14TFS in place of the aircraft serial number on the left side of the tail, with 14AMU on the right side of the tail in place of the serial number on that side. A light gray/white shadow effect was depicted on the trailing edges of the numbers and letters for the squadron/AMU (and wing) flagship. The aircraft serial number normally shown in this area was displaced, and carried in small size aft of this, in a single level string of numbers on the bottom of the rudder.

To complete this unit markings discussion, the emblem of the Pacific Air Forces (PACAF) was carried near the top of the tail in color, denoting the major command (MajCom) to which the wing and squadron were assigned, as can be seen on 14TFS F-16C 85-1549 up at the banner position of this web log.  It was not on the aircraft Stateside as they departed the continental US enroute to Misawa – it may have been applied at Hickam AFB, Hawaii during the stopover on the journey west, or applied once the aircraft reached Misawa.

The standard USAF serial number identification was placed immediately beneath the two-letter wing code. The two numbers beneath the AF indicated the fiscal year the aircraft was funded (not the year it came off the assembly line), and the large three numbers are the last three numbers of the aircraft’s full serial number.

Color and Markings Shift

Late in 1988, the squadron’s checkered band was moved to the top of the vertical stabilizer. According to maintenance personnel, this was done to make it easier to apply and maintain as it did not cross a control surface (rudder) as it had when it was lower on the vertical stabilizer. In addition, the color decals for squadron, wing and MajCom markings went away, and changed over to a low- visibility dark gray emblem painted in outline form over the lighter shades of gray.

14TFS F-16C 85-1563 thunders by in this circa 1988 view of the aircraft.  Note the shift of the checkered band up to the top of the tail, and the low visibility PACAF emblem beneath.  (14TFS web log)

14TFS F-16C 85-1563 thunders by in this circa 1988 view of the aircraft. Note the shift of the checkered band up to the top of the tail, and the low visibility PACAF emblem beneath. (14TFS web log)

Departure of the Checks

In 1989, the checkered band was replaced by a solid yellow strip atop the vertical stabilizer – the black checks were gone. Rumor at the time was that the Weapons School mafia had objected to anyone else using their trademark black and yellow checks. It’s not clear if this was the actual driving factor for the change, or whether it was yet another attempt to ease the maintenance aspects of the squadron’s color markings. The 13TFS markings were simplified and moved in a similar way during the same timeframe as these Samurai changes. The drive for uniformity and standardization seems relentless.

 A four-ship of 14TFS Vipers is shown here, circa 1990-1991, indicating the change to a single solid color squadron stripe atop the tail. These are some of the Big Mouth Block 30 jets to which the 14TFS upgraded circa 1990-1991, and came from Osan AB when the 51TFW/36TFS changed from the Block 30 to Block 42 F-16.  (Courtesy 14TFS web log)

A four-ship of 14TFS Vipers is shown here, circa 1990-1991, indicating the change to a single solid color squadron stripe atop the tail. These are some of the Big Mouth Block 30 jets to which the 14TFS upgraded circa 1990-1991, and at least some of them came from Osan AB when the 51TFW/36TFS changed from the Block 30 to Block 42 F-16. (Courtesy 14TFS web log)

References
F-16 Viper FAQ – stuff you wanted to know about the F-16C/D, accessed at: http://www.usaf-sig.org/index.php/reference/114-research-material/82-f-16-viper-faq-stuff-you-wanted-to-know-about-the-f-16cd

F-16 Color Table, at Cybermodeler Online website, accessed at: http://www.cybermodeler.com/aircraft/f-16/vipercolors.shtml

F-16 Fighting Falcon USAF Three-Color Camouflage Color Profile and Paint Guide, Cybermodeler Online website, at: http://www.cybermodeler.com/aircraft/f-16/f-16c_profile01.shtml

Fujimi 1/72 scale F-16C/D ‘Black Owls’ model kit G-20, Fujimi Number 26020, 1988, on Scale Mates website, at: http://www.scalemates.com/products/product.php?id=123713

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