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Airmen give F-16s new paint job

U.S. Air Force Airman 1st Class Holden Nieman and Senior Airman Daniel Meadows, 20th Equipment Maintenance Squadron aircraft structural maintainers, work together to paint a decal on the side of an F-16CM Viper at Shaw Air Force Base, South Carolina, June 20, 2019.

U.S. Air Force Airman 1st Class Holden Nieman and Senior Airman Daniel Meadows, 20th Equipment Maintenance Squadron aircraft structural maintainers, work together to paint a decal on the side of an F-16CM Viper at Shaw Air Force Base, South Carolina, June 20, 2019. The Airmen scuffed the preexisting aircraft coating, applied one layer of primer coating to bare metal and an aeroglaze which made the whole aircraft red, then applied a gray top coating. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Destani K. Matheny)

U.S. Air Force Airman 1st Class Holden Nieman, 20th Equipment Maintenance Squadron aircraft structural maintainer, peels a stencil off the side of an F-16CM Viper at Shaw Air Force Base, South Carolina, June 20, 2019.

U.S. Air Force Airman 1st Class Holden Nieman, 20th Equipment Maintenance Squadron aircraft structural maintainer, peels a stencil off the side of an F-16CM Viper at Shaw Air Force Base, South Carolina, June 20, 2019. The stencil was used for a star and bars decal which identified the jet as a U.S. Air Force aircraft. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Destani K. Matheny)

U.S Air Force Airman 1st Class Holden Nieman, 20th Equipment Maintenance Squadron aircraft structural maintainer, peels stencils off decal paint at Shaw Air Force Base, South Carolina, June 20, 2019.

U.S Air Force Airman 1st Class Holden Nieman, 20th Equipment Maintenance Squadron aircraft structural maintainer, peels stencils off decal paint at Shaw Air Force Base, South Carolina, June 20, 2019. There are many different decals which identify the aircraft and indicate certain areas on the aircraft, such as dangerous areas and where to walk. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Destani K. Matheny)

Decal paint is placed on a table in the 20th Equipment Maintenance Squadron (EMS) paint booth at Shaw Air Force, South Carolina, June 20, 2019.

Decal paint is placed on a table in the 20th Equipment Maintenance Squadron (EMS) paint booth at Shaw Air Force, South Carolina, June 20, 2019. The 20th EMS introduced a new and simple paint scheme that makes the body of F-16CM Vipers solid gray and the decals are a lighter gray to stand out. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Destani K. Matheny)

The 77th Fighter Squadron’s F-16CM Viper flagship is parked in the paint shop at the 20th Equipment Maintenance Squadron’s paint booth at Shaw Air Force Base, South Carolina, June 20, 2019.

The 77th Fighter Squadron’s F-16CM Viper flagship is parked in the paint shop at the 20th Equipment Maintenance Squadron’s paint booth at Shaw Air Force Base, South Carolina, June 20, 2019. A new color scheme has been implemented for F-16s, cutting down the time it takes to paint each jet. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Destani K. Matheny)

SHAW AIR FORCE BASE, S.C. -- SHAW AIR FORCE BASE, S.C. – The 20th Equipment Maintenance Squadron gave the 77th Fighter Squadron’s F-16CM Viper flagship a fresh look, June 20.

The jets are transitioning into a new coating system which the Air Force has standardized across the entire F-16 fleet.

The Vipers received their last paint scheme roughly ten years ago. It had a two-toned design — dark gray on the top and a light gray on the underside — that took ten days to paint, said Staff Sgt. Denzel Paylor, 20th EMS aircraft structural maintainer.

The new scheme brings that time down to five days, said Paylor.

Since they can paint more aircraft in less time, the 20th EMS has increased hangar and facility availability. This increases the efficiency of Air Force resources by using fewer manpower hours per jet.

“First, we scuff the preexisting aircraft coating then we apply one layer of primer coating to any bare metal,” said Paylor, “Next is an aeroglaze, a type of primer that allows paint coatings to effectively adhere together and makes the whole aircraft red. Last is the gray top coating.”

The paint’s primary job, however, is to protect the jet from rust and corrosion, said Paylor.

Senior Airman Daniel Meadows, 20th EMS aircraft structural maintainer, said some decals used include a falcon, which reflects the F-16’s official name, the tail stripe which tells what aircraft maintenance unit the plane is from, the “stars and bars” which is how service members know the Vipers belong to the U.S. Air Force, along with other important informational decals, such as “Danger” painted near the cockpit and ejection seat.

It all looks cool, but everything still has a function, he continued to say.

“Painting the jets is one of the best parts of my job,” said Meadows. “I put my ear protection in and everything’s quiet. You’re spraying and just in your own little world.”