USAF F-15C Eagle and F-15E Strike Eagle squadrons are leading the way when it comes to nose art. The practice was outlawed in the early 1970s when General John Ryan was the USAF commander. Following a directive issued in 2015, this kind of stunning artwork is being applied to fighters on deployment with increasing frequency. However, the delicate properties of low observable (LO) coatings mean that 5th generation fighters are never likely to receive such decoration.
Adding nose art and special paint schemes to certain aircraft is part of a USAF initiative to revive old traditions and foster squadron culture. However, the handiwork must conform to strict Air Force guidelines. According to a report by Military.com, the nose art must be “distinctive, symbolic, gender-neutral, intended to enhance unit pride, designed in good taste” and abide by copyright and trademark laws.
Typically, maintainers use grease pencils to apply the creative themed artwork, which has the additional benefit of being easily washed-off by corrosion control teams when the aircraft return from deployment.
The “Vampires” deployment to PSAB has given rise to some of the largest nose art seen on modern fighters for a very long time. This has been characterized by huge stenciling for a number of the aircraft, including those dubbed “CHAOS”, “NIGHTRAIN”, and “THE TROOPER.” The latter is applied to double MiG-killer 85-0114, which claimed a MiG-23 and a MiG-29 during Operation Desert Storm when it was assigned to the 58th Tactical Fighter Squadron from Eglin AFB, Florida.
Next year will mark the 30th anniversary of Desert Storm and the very same F-15Cs are back in Saudi Arabia, standing guard over the region. This time around, they are sporting far more modern weaponry and sensors, and some big, brash, and colorful nose art.
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