In the world of military aviation, a subtle but significant transformation is underway within the Air Combat Command. This transformation revolves around the adoption of low visibility liveries, a concept that emerged in the mid-1980s but is now gaining new momentum.
Transforming Traditions in Air Combat Command
In a recent development published by the Bulgarian Military, in September 04, 2023, the realm of the Air Combat Command, the Air National Guard, and the Air Education & Training Command, there’s an intriguing transformation taking place. These entities, crucial to national defense and military training, are witnessing a significant shift in the visual identity of their aircraft. The emergence of the General Dynamics F-16C/D Fighting Falcon in a fresh livery signals the winds of change.
But it’s not just the F-16; the Boeing F-15EX Eagle II and the Lockheed-Martin F-35A Lightning II are also adopting a similar uniformity. Recently, an F-16C retrofitted in Belgium made headlines by donning this new pattern, raising questions about the future of air combat command aesthetics. The visual identity of aircraft might seem like a minor concern, but it holds a profound truth. Units like the 8th, 77th, 120th, 121st, and 480th Fighter Squadrons, along with the 414th Combat Training Squadron, typically not associated with 5th generation fighters, are now featuring the fresh livery on their Fighting Falcons.
This change, while subtle compared to previous designs, represents a version of ‘low visibility 2.0’. The U.S. Air Force’s intentions behind this transformation remain somewhat mysterious, sparking speculation about its practicality in enhancing radar elusiveness. Regardless, this new look exudes a unique elegance fitting for the new air combat command F-16.
Low Visibility 2.0: A Changing Aesthetic Landscape
In a recent news reported by Reddit, delving deeper into this transformation, we explore the concept of ‘low visibility 2.0’. This aesthetic approach of new air combat command, rooted in the mid-1980s, coincided with the rise of stealth technology in the United States. Unlike true invisibility to radar systems, low visibility sought to reduce visibility to the naked eye. This doctrine has not only become a staple within the United States but has also influenced global military practices. Low visibility livery essentially involves minimizing the use of conspicuous colors, favoring predominantly white, black, and gray hues. Unit identifiers, emblems, and insignias are often toned down or omitted entirely. This evolution can be traced back to U.S. Navy aircraft, like the Grumman A-6 Intruder and Lockheed S-3 Viking.
Interestingly, while entertainment transitioned from black and white to color, air combat command aesthetics shifted towards more austere black-and-white color schemes. Today, manufacturers like Boeing and Lockheed-Martin have embraced low visibility liveries with aircraft like the Boeing F/A-18E/F Super Hornet and the Lockheed-Martin F-35 Lightning II showcasing this trend. This shift towards low visibility isn’t limited to the United States. French military aviation, exemplified by the Dassault Aviation Rafale B/C, has also adopted this aesthetic preference. What was once a rare stylistic choice reserved for special events or limited durations is now becoming the norm.
Even countries with Soviet heritage are embracing this change. The transition to low visibility liveries isn’t merely about appeasing enthusiasts or model makers; it signifies a broader shift in military aviation priorities. As the skies evolve, so do the identities of the aircraft that safeguard our nations, offering a glimpse into the future landscape of air combat command and aerial warfare aesthetics.