Rooting for the Home Team: DC Air National Guard F-16 Gets a Baseball Makeover

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A U.S. Air Force F-16 Falcon with a Washington Nationals logo painted as the tail flash.
A U.S. Air Force F-16 Falcon from the D.C. Air National Guard with a Washington Nationals logo painted as the tail flash, outside the Air National Guard Paint Facility in Sioux City, Iowq, June 2, 2020. (U.S. Air National Guard/Senior Master Sgt. Vincent De Groot)

As stay-in-place orders start to lift, giving hope that air shows and sporting events might resume, the District of Columbia Air National Guard is debuting a special paint job on an F-16 Fighting Falcon in honor of the home team.

The Air Force recently painted the Washington Nationals baseball team's "curly W" logo on the tail of a two-seater "D" training model F-16 assigned to the National Guard's 113th Fighter Wing, according to a service release.

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The sleek paint job was done at the Air National Guard's aircraft paint facility in Sioux City, Iowa, the release adds.

"After returning to Andrews Air Force Base, the aircraft will be displayed at events and may make an appearance at select air shows," it states. "The aircraft will serve as an iconic symbol for unit members as well as residents who live and work in the Beltway region and beyond."

A U.S. Air Force F-16 Falcon with a Washington Nationals logo painted as the tail flash.
A U.S. Air Force F-16 Falcon from the D.C. Air National Guard with a Washington Nationals logo painted as the tail flash, outside the Air National Guard Paint Facility in Sioux City, Iowq, June 2, 2020. (U.S. Air National Guard/Senior Master Sgt. Vincent De Groot)

The paint job is temporary, but the practice of painting aircraft -- typically nose art to honor service heritage and local communities or even just for fun -- is a tradition that has been revived in recent years.

Earlier this year, an F-15C Eagle based at Kingsley Field Air National Guard Base in Oregon was painted to honor the base's namesake, 2nd Lt. David R. Kingsley, a bombardier on a B-17 crew during World War II.

The Eagle's underlying paint scheme was modeled after the B-17, "with mottled green and brown camouflage on the top and light grey paint on the bottom," according to officials with the 173rd Fighter Wing. "The wings both have black and white 'invasion stripes,' denoting a friendly or allied aircraft during WWII," the wing said in a release.

"Sandman" was stenciled onto the nose of the fighter to pay homage to the aircraft on which Kingsley flew.

"Nose art was first conceived during World War I by French and German aviators, who pioneered the application of personalized markings, insignia and garish paint schemes for their combat aircraft​," Brett Stolle, curator at the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force, told Air Force Times in 2016.

Brightly painted planes were prevalent during World War II, which became known as the golden age of nose art, he added.

In the early 1970s, then-Air Force Chief of Staff John D. Ryan ​placed a moratorium on aircraft art.

There are still strict rules in place for paint schemes, which must be approved and follow copyright and trademark laws. But military aircraft have been spotted all around the world boasting short-term designs.

In the case of the Air National Guard F-16, it's as simple as love for the game.

"The Nationals' home base is Nationals Park in the heart of the nation's capital," the release states. "An F-16 can get from Andrews to the stadium in about 1 second for a game day flyover; or about the same amount of time it takes Nationals' closer Sean Doolittle's fast ball to make it to home plate.

"When baseball returns to the Capital Region, hopefully people will be reminded of the nobility of baseball," it adds.

-- Oriana Pawlyk can be reached at oriana.pawlyk@military.com. Follow her on Twitter at @oriana0214.

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