Behind the scenes: a 75 year F-16 jet in the making

  • Published
  • By Master Sgt. Jeremy Roman
  • 301st Fighter Wing public affairs

The 301st Fighter Wing has received overwhelming positive reactions to the newest heritage design commemorating over 75 years of the 457th Fighter Squadron. Just like the time it takes to reach 75 years of #STTB (Spad to the Bone), the paint design project took some time as well.

In 2018, a design contest announcement went out to the wing’s Airmen and there were some notable entries. However, the winning selection is what you see flying over the Texas skies since it arrived here on November 4, 2020.

The Traditional Reservist responsible for the creative design was Lt. Col. Jeremy ‘Boydo’ Boyd, who serves as an executive officer for the 301 FW Operations Support Squadron and also supports the 457 FS in a similar role. Boyd, who has served in the military for more than 22 years and joined the wing in 2013, shared what went into his inspiration.

“I wanted to honor the deep 457th Fighter Squadron history and went through countless designs until I found the one I thought it would properly represent the unit. I started by researching all the aircraft the unit had been assigned since WWII and I found the historical write up on the squadron patch in the official Air Force historical manual ‘Combat Squadrons of the Air Force WWII’ and thought this needed to be incorporated into any design that was going to be submitted,” Boyd said. I then began to research different tail designs that military units have accomplished around the world.”

Originally, Boyd began with the 457th’s (also known as the SPADS) P-51 green tail color scheme used when they provided escort support to the Boeing B-29 Superfortress missions off of Iwo Jima. However, the green tail incorporated with the red did not quite mix the way he desired and decided to just extend the patch over the entire tail Boyd added.

 With a basic F-16 tail outline and some colored pencils, he began to draw sketch after sketch. Once pleased with his basic designed, it was transferred and digitally rendered to his computer. There were several iterations and Boyd frequently reviewed the design options with various Airmen to get their feedback. After completing the tail, Boyd felt the design needed something bigger.

“I wanted to add something that would truly represent Texas, where the unit is currently stationed, and I went bold and used the whole top and bottom of the aircraft as a canvas,” said Boyd. “Only the front of the jet contained its traditional gray to represent the combat mission and business end of the aircraft.”

Finally, the dates were added at the bottom of the tail to commemorate the 75 years this unit has represented the United States. 

“It ended up being months of work to get from concept-only to the final design, but the results were absolutely stunning. From two-dimensional drawings and computer screens, I could only imagine how it would actually look once painted, ” Boyd said. “All the curves, angles and light reflections made it hard to conceptualize… especially the bottom of the aircraft and how the blue, red and white would wrap around the engine intake. Photos can only represent so much but seeing it in person is a completely different experience.”

The organization who painted the heritage scheme was L3Harris Technologies in Waco, Texas. A production like this takes quite the concerted effort. 

“The time and red tape required to get an aircraft painted in this day and age is jaw dropping. What started out as a simple idea, ended up being over a year in the making,” Boyd said. “Idea, design, submitting for approval, contracting, funding, contracting, runway requirements, contracting, natural disaster, contracting, approval, preparation, transportation, and then completion. Each one of those words has a fascinating story behind it…and yes, you can see that contracting was engaged on more than one occasion.”  

A lot of Texas pride went into the entire process. Boyd, who has cemented a milestone in the wing’s history, and L3Harris, who brought that design to life.

“The design was a stunning tribute to the past, present and future of the 457th Fighter Squadron,” said Jon Piatt, vice president and general manager, Integrated Aerospace Systems, L3Harris. “Our team was proud to bring the squadron’s vision to reality.”

Thank you to every unit and person involved in the entire process because this project would not turned out the way it did without your efforts.


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