Gunfighter art

Bob Archer details art work applied to US Air Force F-15E Strike Eagles during a six-month tour of duty fighting ISIS

F-15E 92-0366/MO has stylised tail markings for the 366th Fighter Wing. The Wing’s ‘Gunfighters’ name dates to the Vietnam War when the then Da Nang-based 366th Tactical Fighter Wing scored its first MiG kills with F-4C Phantoms armed with 20mm M61AI cannons housed in SUU-16 pods.
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EIGHTEEN STRIKE Eagles assigned to the 366th Fighter Wing based at Mountain Home Air Force Base, Idaho, transited RAF Lakenheath, Suffolk on their way home to the United States in April. The unit involved had spent six months conducting combat operations against evil terrorist groups in Iraq and Syria, primarily ISIS.

Deployed to a major air base in the Middle East and assigned to a US Air Force Air Expeditionary Wing, an expeditionary fighter squadron was formed to enable joint operations, involving personnel from supporting units. Operating in support of Combined Joint Task Force -Operation Inherent Resolve, the fighter squadron was reportedly the largest in the US Air Force at the time. The squadron was tasked with planning and conducting self-escort interdiction, close air support, defensive counter-air, and suppression of enemy air defences missions, day or night in all weathers.

Strike efforts were focused on groups of terrorists fighting in the eastern half of Syria, and in the northern and western areas of Iraq supporting ground forces extricating terrorists from their strongholds.

Primarily striking localised targets to dislodge small groups of fighters, rather than larger structures, Strike Eagle crews were often confronted with scenarios where groups of ISIS terrorists were using defenceless, innocent civilians as shields, thereby preventing a strike from taking place. In other scenarios intelligence from various sources provided the necessary details of enemy personnel movements, to enable successful attacks.

US Central Command, the organisation responsible for all US military activities in the region, released details of targets which included conventional and tactical vehicles, supply routes, entrenched fighting positions, vehicle borne improvised explosive devices, fuel tankers, weapons caches, command and control centres, tunnels, caves, and checkpoints.

Types of precision-guided weapons involved, were not released.One partial measure of the number of sorties flown by the F-15Es could be gauged by the rows of mission markings applied to the aircraft beneath the cockpit on the port side of the nose.

All eighteen F-15Es assigned to the unit had individual bomb symbols as a record of each weapon delivered against a target; some had over 100 bomb symbols applied.

Artwork was also applied including pairs of crossed pistols (in recognition of the ‘Gunfighters’ name of the parent 366th Fighter Wing) and various versions of the skull and crossbones.

A recent announcement by the US government that ISIS had been largely routed in Syria and Iraq may mean that these latest significant combat operations by the Mountain Home-based unit will be the last. However, the US government has reduced its operations in the Middle East before, only to return when terrorist factions resurface.

Gunfighter nose art details