49th MXG's First F-16 Flagship

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Antonio Salfran
  • 49th Wing Public Affairs

Airmen from the 49th Equipment Maintenance Squadron completed a repaint project for the 49th Maintenance Group’s first flagship Dec. 20, 2021, here. The newest flagship will represent the 49th Maintenance Group, and will be used as a ground vehicle for 49th MXG weapons load crews to train on.

This will be the fifth flagship among the 49th Wing, among the three for all the fighter squadrons and one for the wing that display the legacy and heritage for each of those respective organizations. Before being painted, the F-16 had been stationed at the 309th Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Group in Tucson, Arizona, being used as a ground trainer.

“We thought that the AMARG paint job that had been sitting in the desert for about 20 years wasn’t up to snuff,” said Col. Tom Preston, the 49th MXG commander.

Preston mentioned that the idea to give the 49th MXG its first flagship had been circulating for a year. So once the group acquired an F-16 for a repaint job, it was time to get to work.

Painting a flagship is a process that includes a variety of prerequisites before any sort of painting can be done--especially for the group’s first flagship.

“Once all the flight controls are in the correct positions and anything hanging on the jet is removed, we can start our process,” said Senior Airman Shawnna Rowlands, 49th Equipment Maintenance Squadron aircraft structural maintainer. “Next, it comes down to masking where we mask off the canopy, the engine, and all the stands.”

But this isn’t where the preparation process ends for these Airman.

“When the masking is done, we’ll get our sanders, our Tyvex masks and we’re ready to go,” said Rowlands. “Sanding can take anywhere from just four hours to an entire day. It just depends on how bad a jet is and how many people we have to help that day. Once the sanding is complete we can do a blow-down, wipe the jet and remove anything that can interfere with the paint. Primer cannot adhere to sandy surfaces.”

For this specific flagship attention to detail was paramount. These Airman had to be precise when painting the symbol that will represent all of the 49th MXG’s hard work and lineage over the years.

“We focus mainly on the tail, stabilizers and ventrals with a project like this one,” said Rowlands. “Each step of the color for these is done on different days. Then once we finish the tail we can move on to the rest of the jet and finish up the stencils and put on the top coat.”

There are approximately 2,000 Airmen in the 49th MXG; by having a flagship they become closer to the flying community, both of which are integral to ensuring that Holloman AFB is a premier training location.