The United States Air Force’s F-16 was designed to push the edge and challenge conventional combat assumptions at a time when air-to-air missiles were meant to reign supreme. Aviation Challenge and the U.S. Space and Rocket Center is home to a 1978 model F-16. This year the Alumni community came together with the Space Center to restore this aircraft to a condition befitting its military service.
As we began to seek support for restoring the Aviation Challenge aircraft, the 187th Tactical Fighter Wing, based out of Dannelly Field in Montgomery, AL, reached out with the desire to assist the project, making a request to change the livery of the aircraft. Currently, the 187th Tactical Fighter Wing is home to the 100th Fighter Squadron – the Red Tails.
The 100th Fighter Squadron has been activated and retired a number of times throughout history. In 2007, the Alabama legislature requested of the Air National Guard Bureau that the 160th Fighter Squadron be re-designated as the 100th Fighter Squadron in honor of the famous Tuskegee Airmen’s Alabama heritage. It was agreed and executed in September of 2009. To celebrate the revival of the 100th, the squadron’s F-16s (C and D models) were painted with a bright red tail and white lettering and logos to echo the designs used on the WWII era P-51 Mustangs. This livery was used for only one year. Currently, the 100th uses a lower profile red stripe with the word “Alabama” in white letters at the top of the vertical stabilizer.
This Spring, we collaborated with the U.S. Air Force to receive special permission to refurbish and paint the F-16 at Aviation Challenge in the famed red colors of the Tuskegee Airmen.
PPG Industries came forward to support the project by providing the paint, namely the notorious bright red of which the Tuskegee Airmen are famed. Over the past two months, countless staff and volunteers from the U.S. Space and Rocket Center, Space Camp Alumni Association, NASA Marshall Space Flight Center, and a member of the Space Camp Hall of Fame contributed their Saturday mornings to restore the aircraft, construct a new concrete pad, and relocate to a new home in front of the Aviation Challenge Bubble.
At present, the current Red Tail team is currently deployed and flying in Afghanistan – we have been fortunate to have a few of the active team participate in this project prior to that deployment.
The Red Tails are an endless source of inspiration for aviators around the world and that’s what we try to do every day at Space Camp and Aviation Challenge — inspire the next generation. We are doing it for the original Tuskegee Airmen, to honor their pivotal role in military aviation history and anchor the Red Tails story at the U.S. Space and Rocket Center in their home base in the state of Alabama.
Join us, and five of the surviving original Tuskegee Airmen, for the dedication of the F-16 Red Tail commemorating Alabama’s Tuskegee Airmen at the Aviation Challenge Facility – U.S. Space and Rocket Center, Huntsville, Alabama, on Saturday, August 9, 2014 at 10 a.m. Celebrate with us as we honor the Tuskegee Airmen, who served our nation as fighter pilots, instructors, suppliers and mechanics during World War II, and as inspiration for generations since.
A few pictures of the progress before the full unveiling: