Photos provided by Martin Viknesh (Thanks!)
The story about this F-16 paint scheme is quite extraordinary, not only because of the scale of the paint scheme (my designs so far have limited itself to the vertical stabliser), but also the way the project got started and how it ended up.
In the fall of 2018 I was contacted by a communications director at the RDAF. I had previously talked to him about the idea of celebrating the RDAFs 70th birthday by making a retro style paint scheme, in the style of the Spitfires the RDAF once operated. That thought occurred the year before when i did the Spitfire scheme (see the RDAF F-16 2018 section) so to me that would be straight forward. However, I was told that the danish flag would have its 800th anniversary in 2019 and there was a chance that the RDAF would be willing to celebrate that…That sounded pretty good to me, cause I was told that if the RDAF should ever paint an entire F-16 in a special paint scheme now was the time, and they would like me to design a paint scheme to convince the higher echelon officers that it was a good idea to proceed with this project.
To say the least, that message caught my attention, and I figured that this might be my chance not only to get yet another F-16 to sport my design, but also be a part of a project that was almost without historical equal (at least in the RDAF). To me that meant designing a paint scheme that would be immediately recognizable, be within the capabilities of the painters to apply and to do our flag justice. No easy task…that was apparent from the get go !
The difficulties in the design process turned out to be only the half of it, the real struggle was to get the permission to apply the paint scheme to one of the F-16s. Something I wouldn´t have the leverage to do…but the CO of 727 Fighter Squadron did, and without him the story would have ended here. But with a tremendous footwork and diplomatic skills, the project really took off at this point (pun intended). So this would be a very appropriate time say: Thanks SPE! Well done!
In the design process started with the basic idea of applying a red base color and adding a white cross to it. At first I wanted the design to be different from the red and white scheme applied to a Esk. 729 RF-35 Draken back in 1986…but the more I thought about it, i became apparent that there was no real reason for doing that: Why not make this paint scheme an homage to our flag, and a more subtle cadeau to the guys that painted the Draken almost 35 years ago?
So, that was the general idea for the upper surface of the aircraft. As I tried out a few different layouts, I figured that i wanted to depict the Swallowtail flag (which among other places is used on military aircraft). One thing that bothered me with making a symmetrical layout of the flag on the upper side of the aircraft, was that the fuselage around the cockpit would be white. I have never been sitting in the cockpit of an aircraft before, but I do know that a anti-glare panel is usually applied to avoid the pilot being blinded by light reflections, so I figured that white wouldn´t be the best choice to apply a white around the cockpit. Using the Swallowtail flag that problem could be avoided, by having the two tails of the flag run on each side of the cockpit, leaving a black “void” in between. At least that was the idea. I tried it and to me that looked great! that would set the design apart from a generic design with a red base and a white cross.
The lower side I wanted to be different from the top side. My idea was that when the aircraft would streak past the audience at an air show with the belly exposed, the “800” would make it very apparent what was being celebrated. On a white base I made two red lines, the number 8 on the port wing, the number 0 on the belly of the fuselage and the number 0 on the starboard wing. Below is the first design proposal:
I ran this proposal by a some key people at the fighter wing. A few comments were made but the overall impression was: “great top side” and “the belly looks too busy”.
I was happy to hear that the black nose was approved, and of cause, to know that the general layout have been approved. But the belly, I would have to rework.
With this sketch complete, the diplomatic footwork could commence. I´m not sure what SPE went through, but I didn´t take him long to get back to me with the message: The project got the green lights ! But there was one snag: The black nose cone!
From experience learned by the Dutch and Belgian Air Force, painting the nose cone black would increase the cost of the special markings by a significant amount. Despite my more or less subtle attempts to make it happen. From an artists stand point a black nose would be ideal, but for this one a compromise had to be made.
To update the paint scheme was not too difficult. With a working upper surface, I simply made an exact replica on the lower surface. The design was accepted, and now it was time for SPE to use all his diplomatic prowess to get this project from the drawing board to the surface of a F-16. I made the illustration below:
What SPE did to make this happen I don´t know, but in mid February, I got the call i had been waiting for: The project was approved!
I hardly could believe my own ears…
However, the design wasn´t finished yet. The vertical stabilizer have yet to be decorated. With the deadline rapidly approaching, I had to come up with something quickly. With the clean lines of the rest of the design, I soon realized that I had to keep it simple. I wanted to include some black in the vertical stabilizer design, since I figured it would “tie the design together”. After playing around with the Swallow tail flag I came up with the design that would turn out to be the final one. Taking cues from the black tailed design from the 2018 competition (see the RDAF F-16 2018 section), I decided to add the word Dannebrog and 800 to the tail. Like the rest of the design, this decision was made in close collaboration with SPE, and the final touch of the design was to agree on the color of the text. The choice became a metallic grey, and with that done, painting could begin!
The final design proposal looked like this:
It turned out to be E-191 that would get the Dannebrog paint scheme applied. That aircraft have for several decades been 730 Fighter Squadrons flagship. Over the years I had sported an assortment of different tail paint schemes, mainly in the squadrons blue trim color. Now the blue gave way to red and white (and black).
In late April 2019 I was told that E-191 was in the paint shop and was being prepped for the Red and White anniversary paint scheme.
On May 5th, the first photos of the aircraft surfaced on facebook. Only a shop of the nose peeking out from the hangar where the paint was applied.
The guys at Skrydstrup were extremely nice and kept me up to date with the progress of the painting process. On May 10th, these photos landed in my mailbox:
Only 5 days later a new update arrived:
Yet again on May 23th, just after the aircraft had the final paint coats applied, a full body shot of the aircraft was published on facebook…the positive side of that was that i could get a feel for how the aircraft will be received. Luckly it seemed very positive, and even better the photo was removed after only have been posted for about an hour. The hopes of a surprise appearance remains intact at the time of writing this.
With the anniversary celebration being held on Jun. 15th, the unveiling of the aircraft draws nearer. Unfortunatly, the F-16 will not be flying over Copenhagen as a part of the celebration parade (as planned). At this time I haven´t seen the F-16 live nor is it clear when I will do so. However, This project have without any doubt been one of the most exciting to be a part of. Last but not least…and this have been mentioned before in this write-up: SPE deserves kudo for making it happen, and for putting up with my questions and numerous messages and e-mails (Thanks !)…BZ!