This ‘What if’ design pulls cues from the Desert Camouflage Uniform worn during the first Gulf War, and a similar experimental livery of camouflage that was tested at that time.
The 56th Equipment Maintenance Squadron at Luke Air Force Base (AFB), Arizona, unveiled an F-16D Fighting Falcon painted in a heritage color scheme at the 310th Air Maintenance Unit hangar on Jun. 17, 2022. As explained by Senior Airman Caleb F. Butler in the article Luke AFB Unveils Newest Heritage Jet, this particular jet was the first American F-16 to score an aerial victory.
“The aircraft before you earned the moniker ‘MiG Killer’ as a result of the events that took place on Dec. 27, 1992.” said 1st Lt. James Mobbley, 56th EMS Fabrication Flight officer in charge, at the unveiling ceremony. “On this day, Lt. Col. Gary “Nordo” North, who was flying this F-16D, tail number 0778, led a flight of four F-16s on a routine Operation Southern Watch mission in Iraq.”
During this mission, an armed MiG-25 Foxbat entered into the no-fly zone.
As we have already explained, Nordo called for a tactical offset to the north to “bracket” the F-16s between the MiG and the thirty-second parallel, creating a blocking maneuver and trapping the Iraqi fighter in forbidden airspace. The MiG could not escape back into Iraqi territory without a fight. “Someone was going to die within the next two minutes, and it wasn’t going to be me or my wingman,” North said.
North requested clearance to fire as he visually identified the aircraft-a MiG-25 Foxbat armed with AA-6 “Acrid” radar guided missiles. He directed his wingman to employ his electronic jamming pod and again he requested clearance to fire. He finally heard “BANDIT-BANDIT-BANDIT, CLEARED TO KILL” over his head set. At approximately three nautical miles, at fifteen degrees nose high and fifteen degrees right bank North locked up the MiG-25 and fired an AIM-120 AMRAAM (Advanced Medium Range Anti-Aircraft Missile), which guided to impact and totally destroyed the Russian built Foxbat.
This engagement not only marked the first aerial victory scored by an American F-16, but also the first kill for the AIM-120 AMRAAM.
The paint scheme for this jet was accomplished by 12 Fabrication Flight Airmen assigned to corrosion control here at Luke AFB, as a means of honoring North’s actions and Air Force heritage. The paint job required 1,500 man-hours and over 13 gallons of paint.
“This ‘What if’ design pulls cues from the Desert Camouflage Uniform worn during the first Gulf War, and a similar experimental livery of camouflage that was tested at that time,” said Staff Sgt. Michael Cichonsky, 56th Equipment Maintenance Squadron F-35 low observable aircraft structural maintainer. “Very few pictures exist of the test scheme, since it was hand rolled using latex paint, and only lasted a week before being removed. With this design, we not only pay homage to the history of General North and 0778, but it also allows us to reimagine if this paint scheme was selected for use during Operation Southern Watch.”
Photo credit: Senior Airman Caleb F. Butler / U.S. Air Force