Fighter jets land in Sioux City for patriotic paint job - KTIV News 4 Sioux City IA: News, Weather and Sports

Fighter jets land in Sioux City for patriotic paint job


If you've ever flown before or seen a military aircraft, you probably don't think twice about the paint job.

But, for more than a dozen people who work in our area, painting planes is part of their daily lives. It's a job they can't get anywhere else in the country.

"All the aircraft that come in and out of the Sioux City paint facility have been across the globe. Their home units are based in the United States, but they have deployed worldwide," Lt. Col. Shawn Streck, 185th Maintenance Squadron Commander, said.

The experts based at the 185th only paint fighter jets, and once one touches down on this runway, it's immediately brought in to start the scuffing and sanding process. This prepares it for the paint job.

"We move it in to the paint booth by the end of the week. And, then the first thing the following Tuesday, the aircraft gets wiped down and gets primed and painted with the first coat. And, the remaining coats come in successive days after that," Paint Facility Operations Manager Dave Miller said.

A member of the Air National Guard for 38 years, and working at the paint facility for four, Dave Miller said the job never gets old.

"It's seeing the uniqueness of some the projects we do and just being in awe day to day of what these painters can do with these aircrafts," Miller said.

The paint facility team is diverse,  and includes a member of the Army who served two tours in Afghanistan, an auto expert, and seven members of the Air National Guard, who have all served overseas. Miller said the painters must follow specific paint schemes for each aircraft.

"They have essentially a paint map that we follow. They all have their own paint scheme based on the MDS, mission design series," Miller said.

This means the fighter jets, including F-15s, F-16s, and A-10s, that are brought to this facility must be up to code and there's no room for error.

"Painting the aircraft ensures that the corrosion potential is inhibited on the airframe. Obviously, metal corrodes, and whenever you paint that metal, it prevents that potential for corrosion," Miller said.

Most of the planes that come in and out of this facility are from the '70s and '80s. Miller said the F-16 was built as a multi-role fighter, which can be used for many purposes, such as "air to ground," "air to air," and training pilots.

"Air to ground means dropping bombs. Air to air is shooting missiles at other enemy aircrafts," Miller said.

The paint process is a quick one. Once the work is done, the fighter jets are back in action protecting our freedom within three weeks of touching down here at the Air National Guard Paint Facility.

Painters based at the 185th have painted 600 aircraft since the facility opened in 2000. Those who work there said the program has saved the Air National Guard more than $39-million because painting doesn't have to be outsourced to other institutions. 

The 185th Iowa Air Guard, where the paint facility is based, doesn't fly fighter jets at their base anymore.

Instead, they only fly KC-135s, but they do use those to refuel jets.

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