A team of nine 56th Equipment Maintenance Squadron Low Observable Aircraft Structural Maintenance personnel painted an F-16C Fighting Falcon assigned to the 310th Fighter Squadron a solid medium-gray color. The process took approximately a week and a half,
including sanding, priming and painting. While the single color is used at other Air Force bases, it represents a first for the 56th Fighter Wing. Never before has there been an F-16 that has a one solid paint scheme at Luke; Luke’s F-16s traditionally have been painted dark gray on top and light gray on the bottom of the aircraft.
A recent change to the technical data authorized the change in paint scheme, the aircraft a solid color decreases the total time it takes to repaint the aircraft. The time saved, allows the Airmen to complete other tasks. F-16s receive full paints every six to seven years and follow guidance from the technical order (TO) which outlines directions on each project. It typically takes four Airmen a week to sand, prime and paint the aircraft. However, the time repainting aircraft may vary due to different cure times of the primer and paint, which dictate the amount of work that can be done in a day.
Throughout the entire process of painting the aircraft, ASM personnel wear protective equipment to prevent chemicals from entering their body. Aside from full paint jobs on aircraft, ASM Airmen also provide minor or major touchups on F-16s owned by the U.S. and foreign nationals, add or remove stencils and paint aerospace ground equipment. They also construct name plates for the F-35A Lightning II. Each task takes a different amount of time depending on the varying degree of the task. For AGE equipment they strip it for metals technology so they can weld something and we strip for non-destructive inspection so they can inspect something we paint.
Corrosion and rain erosion prevention are important considerations for ASM Airmen, said Douget. Humidity is a significant factor in corrosion, fortunately Arizona’s humidity level is low. However, the Airmen apply specialized paint to prevent rain erosion on the inlet lip and other parts on an F-16 to provide added protection from corrosion. There’s critical thinking that goes into getting the amount of work done needed to complete the mission. If individuals don’t apply their critical thinking skills, then the mission suffers because we’re not able to do things effectively. Painting the F-16 one color versus two is just one example of how the AMS Airmen are thinking critically while supporting the mission.