Luke’s 56th EMS unveils newest heritage jet

The 56th Equipment Maintenance Squadron at Luke Air Force Base, Ariz., unveiled an F-16D Fighting Falcon painted in a heritage color scheme at the 310th Air Maintenance Unit hanger at Luke, June 17, 2022.

This particular jet was the first American F-16 to score an aerial victory.

An F-16D Fighting Falcon sits on display during an unveiling ceremony at the 310th Air Maintenance Unit hanger June 17, 2022 at Luke Air Force Base, Ariz. Lt. Col. Gary “Nordo” North utilized this jet to eliminate an enemy MiG-25 Foxbat during Operation Southern Watch. It is the first American F-16 to earn an aerial victory. (Air Force photograph by Senior Airman Caleb F. Butler)

“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. Realizing that he and his wingmen were in danger, North requested clearance to fire.

“He finally heard ‘bandit-bandit-bandit, cleared to kill’ over his headset,” said Mobbley. “North locked on with an AIM-120 AMRAAM (Advanced Medium Range Anti-Aircraft Missile), fired his missile, and eliminated the MiG.”

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.”

An F-16D Fighting Falcon sits on display during an unveiling ceremony at the 310th Air Maintenance Unit hanger June 17, 2022, at Luke Air Force Base, Ariz. The names of the corrosion control team members responsible for painting the jet can be seen in the lower right corner of the photo. The corrosion control team’s responsibilities revolve around preventative maintenance in an effort to prevent or control corrosion, supporting aircraft generation and pilot training. (Air Force photograph by Senior Airman Caleb F. Butler)
A bay door of an F-16D Fighting Falcon sits ajar during an unveiling ceremony at the 310th Air Maintenance Unit hanger June 17, 2022, at Luke Air Force Base, Ariz. Lt. Col. Gary “Nordo” North utilized this jet to eliminate an enemy MiG-25 Foxbat during Operation Southern Watch. It is the first American F-16 to earn an aerial victory. (Air Force photograph by Senior Airman Caleb F. Butler)

More Stories