Iowa Air Force National Guard unveils gold F-16 jet

The Iowa Air National Guard has unveiled a US Air Force F-16A Falcon fighter jet painted with a commemorative paint that mimics the golden jet’s 50th anniversary. establishment of the unit when it appeared in 1996.

The 2022 redesign of the static display on the 185th Aerial Refueling Wing was announced as the Air Force celebrates its 75th anniversary this year.

The original gold F-16 made its debut on the runway in Sioux City when the unit marked its 50th anniversary in 1996. This year, the unit has accomplished something like the same. The Air Force is marking its 75th anniversary in 2022.


By today’s standards, an all-gold F-16 might not be an anomaly. A quick image search on the Internet for F-16 paint schemes reveals dozens of intricate designs. The 185th veterans say that with the exception of the Thunderbirds, painting an entire US Air Force jet was “not done” 25 years ago.

The famous golden jet is the brainchild of the former 185th Fighter Wing Commander, Col Dennis Swanstr

Vincent De Groot’s photo

braised. As the static display of the F-16 in Sioux City became sunburned and gained some attention, ideas for building the F-16 in gold began to flare up.

The old F-16 has been on display at the Iowa Air National Guard in Sioux City for nearly 20 years. The 174th Fighter Squadron flew the F-16 throughout the 1990s until its conversion to the KC-135 in 2001. Following the unit conversion, the F-16 was added to a small airfield of the 185th aircraft had previously flown at the Air Defense Force unit. .

Aircraft on display in the city of Sioux including variants of the F-80, F-100 on stick and A-7 are all assembled near the unit’s headquarters building.

Vincent De Groot’s photo

Just like its predecessor, the new golden jet has the words “Pride of Siouxland” imprinted on the fuselage on one side. The other side of the plane has the words “50th Anniversary of the Bat” printed in large print. Paint also includes the words “1946-1996” painted on the ventral fins.

Like the original, the 2022 project retains the gothic bat-tail flash with the word “Iowa” painted on the tip of the tail. The words “Sioux City” appear inside a long Native American hat on the drum at the end of the tail.

The design also includes a shiny black radome on the front of the plane as part of the black on gold design. The words “Col Dennis Swanstrom Wing Commander” are painted underneath the canopy on the driver’s side and “TSgt Dave Larimer Crew Chief” is embossed on the right side.

The 1996 version of the gold F-16 was actually one of the wing’s carry-ons at the time. It’s Colonel Swanstrom, who takes all the blame or credit for wanting to do something outstanding to celebrate the unit’s milestone.

As the story goes, Swanstrom is an avid promoter and doesn’t always care about specific rules if they get in the way of a good idea. The unit’s 50th anniversary only happens once, and for those who know him, when Swany has a good idea, no amount of persuasion can convince him otherwise.

Swanstrom joined the group of F-100 pilots in Sioux City in the late 1960s as soon as they returned from Vietnam. It was during a year-long mobilization when the Iowa ANG unit first used the “BAT” designation engraved on the tail of the F-16. The symbol “BAT” was used because the unit often flew night missions while at Phu Cat airfield.

The group’s performance at Phu Cat strengthened a culture of pride and excellence that the next generations, led by Swanstrom, will continue to foster in the years to come.

Decades later, the group completed their air support mission with the A-7 by winning numerous awards in flight and aircraft maintenance. In the early 1990s, the unit finally acquired the Air Force’s premier multi-role fighter, combining its expertise to take on a new mission. The group knew they were part of the best-trained and equipped Air Force in the world, and Swanstrom was eager to tell their story.

Nearly 30 years after Swanstrom began flying, he found himself in a position where he could exercise some autonomy as the Wing Commander of the unit. On the occasion of the unit’s 50th anniversary, Swanstrom wanted to do something big to celebrate.

According to members of the unit at the time, Swanstrom’s idea to paint the jet’s original gold was rejected at first, citing unpleasant things like combat readiness. Undeterred, Swanstrom decided that the jet could be quickly restored to tactical gray if needed, so he went ahead with his idea of ​​painting the F-16 in gold.

On the short list of why painting the jet in gold is a good idea, Swanstrom rationalized that the jet would be a great way to promote the unit. According to his contemporaries, it was all the more justified because it would be good for the morale of the unit.

25 years later, the golden F-16 once again fulfills its purpose in 2022 of helping to tell the unit’s story. The golden jet represents an idea that goes beyond just a commander or an air wing.

Ideas like the importance of the air force that began with Billy Mitchell and championed this year by Pete “Maverick” Mitchell are encapsulated in projects like the gold F-16 in Iowa. The golden jet is a celebration of every Air Force, past and present, who has served proudly in the United States Air Force from its founding days through its 75th year. it.

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