F 35 aggressors profile
Four of the seven new F-35 paint schemes inspired to some existing 64th AGRS F-16 liveries. (All artworks: courtesy Sean Hampton Aviation Art)

As some of our readers will probably remember, last year the U.S. Air Force announced the plan to reactivate the 65th Aggressor Squadron (65th AGRS) and move 11x F-35A Lightning IIs to Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada.

The decision to reactivate the 65th AGRS with the Lightning II jets came after Gen. Mike Holmes, Air Combat Command commander, recommended improving training for fifth generation fighter tactics development and close-air support by adding F-35s to complement the fourth generation aircraft currently being used. For this reason, the USAF decided to create a dedicated F-35 aggressor squadron at Nellis AFB and assign to this unit some, early production non-combat capable 5th generation aircraft.

Aircraft should be transferred to the resurrected 65th Aggressor Squadron as Eglin Air Force Base receive newly produced aircraft (something that is expected to take place in 2022).

In the meanwhile, it looks like the 57th Wing has already started thinking to an aggressor livery for their Lightnings: the U.S. Air Force has already asked someone to design the paint schemes for their future Aggressor F-35s.

F-16s of the 64th Aggressor Squadron, based at Nellis Air Force Base, and 18th AGRS, based at Eielson AFB, Alaska, are pretty famous for sporting paint schemes that make them similar to their Russian or Chinese counterparts. Red Air liveries replicate the paint schemes, markings and insignas of their near peer adversaries, so that pilots in training who come within visual range of these adversary jets get the same sight they would see if they were engaging an actual threat. Some famous “splinter” patterns worn by Nellis AFB’s Aggressors as well as more “traditional” camouflages, like the one applied to U.S. Marine Corps F/A-18 Hornets in the last years, have been inspired by Russian Air Force and Navy aircraft. The F-15C/D of the 65th AGRS also sported eye-catching paint schemes before the unit, assigned to the 57th Wing at Nellis Air Force Base, was inactivated on Sept. 26, 2014, due to Fiscal Year 2015 budget constraints imposed upon the Air Force that zero-lined the squadron’s budget.

In this post you can find some of the schemes submitted by artist Sean Hampton.

Arctic Splinter full
The “Arctic Splinter” based on the livery of the F-16 of the 18th AGRS.

“These are just a few of the designs submitted that happen to be current schemes from the Vipers. The 65th will have their unveiling of the chosen schemes/edits some time next year,” Sean explained in a message to The Aviationist.

“The Air Force approached us to design some schemes. I submitted other designs as well but didn’t want to release until given approval from the USAF. These could be released because they already exist so-to-speak. There is no guarantee they will be chosen. From what I’ve heard, the Splinter scheme seems like it has a pretty solid chance.”

Indeed, the designs Sean has just released are existing color schemes that can be found on F-16s of both the 64th and 18th AGRS Vipers. While we don’t have any idea as to what the rest of his submitted designs may feature, and if a camouflage color scheme will ever make its way to an F-35 since the LO (Low Observability) coating is one of the aircraft’s most delicate components and, for the moment, no F-35 was ever given anything more exotic than the standard haze paint of the stealth aircraft and some high-visibility tail markings, these ones, inspired to some pretty popular paint schemes, like the “Wraith“, “Ghost“, BDU Splinter, etc, are truly amazing.

BDU Splinter
The “BDU Splinter” scheme
The “Wraith” scheme
The “Splinter” scheme
The “Shark” scheme
The “Ghost”
Blue Splinter
The “Blue Splinter”

Noteworthy, some of the most recent Nellis Aggressor color schemes were crowdsourced. Through his Facebook page, Brig. Gen. Robert Novotny, at the time the 57th Wing commander, let the social media vote on several color schemes, some of those based on existing patterns, others designed by the users, narrowing down the choices through a few rounds of polls. We don’t know if the current 57th Wing commander, Brig. Gen. Michael “Johnny Bravo” Drowley, will do the same, but we will surely report on the new F-35 Aggressor liveries as soon as new details emerge.

Meanwhile, enjoy these cool artworks and make sure you visit Sean Hampton’s Facebook page.