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EMBLEM
 
COMMAND AIRCRAFT MARKINGS
 
Copyright - Mark Karvon 1994-2008X

An aircraft designated for the commander of a unit is most commonly called a "flagship". The dictionary definition for naval term "flagship" "the lead ship in a fleet of vessels " holds true in the USAF for these aircraft as well. As an early Air Force tradition, the use of command stripes, in one form on another, is still in use today. As seen in this great piece of artwork "F-106 Delta Dart - 318th FIS "Green Dragons" by artist Mark Karvon (which can be purchased at www.markkarvon.com), the fuselage bands found on F-106A 59-0004 are in the typical location used by F-106 units.

 

Boss Bird, Wing King are common nicknames for aircraft assigned to a units Commander.  The aircraft in that position is truly considered a units "flagship" a naval term that is defined as the "lead ship in a fleet of vessels used by the commanding officer of a group of naval ships". For many years, a typical method to designate a units "flagship" was the use of command stripes. Since the early history of the U.S. Army Air Corps, aircraft have been decorated with these markings designating various command positions within combat unit.

 

In March on 1938, General Headquarters of the Air Force issued Technical Order T.O. 07-1-1 mandating that all of its aircraft have Squadron Recognition Colors, an Airplane Designator and, Command Recognition Stripes for the various leadership positions of a unit.

 

After World War II where the stripes were rarely used, in the first years after the war the command stripe made a comeback with USAF fighter units.

 

Using the colors the markings of the unit, one to four stripes painted on the fuselages of selected aircraft for the following command positions:

 

Four stripes - Air Division, Wing, Group, Commander

Three stripes - Squadron Commander

Two stripes - Director of Operations

One stripe - Flight Commander

 

During the mid 60's, the Air Force aircraft began to fly combat missions Southeast Asia, and adopted a tone down appearance for their tactical aircraft. A uniform green, tan & gray camouflage began to replace the high visibility markings used throughout the 50's and early 60's. With the removal of the high visibility unit tail markings, the USAF created a distinctive tail code system (using two letters) to identify the unit assignment of a particular aircraft.

 

Along with these codes, these aircraft would also carry a stripe (known as a tail stripe) across the upper portion of the tail painted in a distinctive color for each squadron within a Wing. To replace the command stripe on the fuselage of command aircraft, many units would paint a tail stripes high on the tail of the commanders aircraft for each assigned squadron. Most air defense aircraft (F-4's, F-101's F-102's F-106's & T-33's)retained their hi-visibility markings through the 1980's.

 

In the 1980's, units would begin to add a unit designator (typically in place of the aircraft serial number), as an additional means of identifying the "Boss Bird" from a "line jet". Generally one aircraft per unit is chosen to become a "Flagship" carrying the designation for a particular organization. On these aircraft, the squadron or wing designation is most commonly used, but some aircraft wore the titles of Numbered Air Forces, Air Divisions, or maintenance units.

 
 
COMMAND AIRCRAFT
 

Similar to other units in the Air Force, the 318th FIS  designated various aircraft as the squadron "flagship". Below you will find photos of the aircraft that served in that role. 

 
 
F-94 STARFIRE
 
GROUP COMMANDER
F-94A S/N 49-2586
 
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Wearing four stripes and on its wing tanks, F-94A 49-2586 was designated as the 325th Fighter Group commanders aircraft.

 
 
SQUADRON COMMANDER
F-94A S/N 49-2586
 
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The 318th FIS Commanders F-94A 49-2588 wore the traditional  three command stripes, yellow in color. 

 
 
DIRECTOR OF OPERATIONS
F-94A S/N 49-2586
 
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Two fuselage bands can be found on F-94 s/n 49-2558.

 
 
F-106 DELTA DART
 
DIVISION COMMANDER
F-106A S/N 59-0065
 
PHOTO BY NORM FILER

Four white stripes can be seen between the "S" (in "U.S.") and the "R" (in "AIR") of the U.S. Air Force marking on the fuselage of F-106A 59-065, pictured in the late 60's early '70s.

 
 
SQUADRON COMMANDER
F-106A S/N 59-0004
 
xPhoto from Marty Isham Collection

F-106A s/n 59-0004 wore (front to back) dark blue, light blue and white command stripes in this 1978 photograph. The aircraft was destroyed in a crash on June 24, 1980.

 
F-106A S/N 59-0054
 
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After the crash of F-106A s/n 59-0004 in 1980, F-106A s/n 59-0054 was next to wear the command stripes of the 318th FIS, but the stripes were painted in a different order. The stripes were (front to back) dark blue, white and light blue. The aircraft wore the scheme until (aprox) late 1982. 

 
 
DIRECTOR OF OPERATIONS
F-106A S/N 59-0057
 
PICTURE FROM THE BOOK "FIGHTER INTERCEPTORS AMERICAS COLD WAR DEFENDERS"

Being assigned the the 318th FIS "DO" in the late 70's, s/n 59-0057 wore two fuselage bands (front to back) one light blue band and one dark blue.

 
 
FLIGHT LEADER
F-106A S/N 59-0143
 
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A light blue band can be seen on F-106A s/n 59-0143 in this 1980 photo.

 
 
 
 
F-15 EAGLE
 
SQUADRON COMMANDER
F-15A S/N 76-0008
 
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Armed with AIM-7s F-15A s/n 76-0008 is pictured at Det 1 318th FIS in Castle AFB, CA in the late 1983 - early 1984 timeframe. The aircraft served as the squadron flagship until 1986.

 
 
F-15A S/N 76-0111
 
PHOTO BY PAUL CARTER "PLANEPHOTOMAN"

Nicknamed "Triple Sticks" because of its serial number F-15A 76-0111 is pictured on the McChord's "Echo" ramp on August 25, 1987. The aircraft suffered a hard landing on November 15, 1986 after taking the role as the squadron "Boss Bird" or

 
 

After a order to remove the "Starburst" tailflash, 76-0111 along with the squadrons other F-15's replaced the trademarked design with the tactical tail code of "TC". F-15A 76-0111 continued as the 318ths flagship until the inactivation of the squadron in 1989.