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Kunsan Air Base is giving an appropriate goodbye present to two F-16s destined for Alaska early next year — an arctic paint job.

Airmen recently finished painting the first of two fighter jets in an arctic scheme — a camouflage pattern of black, gray and white that’s starkly different from the standard gray paint on jets at Kunsan. It’s the first time the design has been used in the U.S. Air Force.

“The arctic scheme takes on an ominous appearance and makes a dominant combat aircraft look even more aggressive,” said Maj. David Seitz, maintenance operations officer for the 8th Maintenance Squadron.

Good thing — the camouflaged jets are heading to Eielson Air Force Base where they will be used as aggressors in training flights. Kunsan’s 80th Fighter Squadron is swapping the two jets — along with an unspecified number of others that aren’t being painted — for upgraded models from Eielson as part of the Air Force’s Common Configuration Implementation Program.

The jets aren’t getting the arctic makeover because they’re going someplace cold. The arctic scheme is one of four designs that will help pilots differentiate between friendly and enemy jets during combat.

The camouflage pattern was designed at Hill Air Force Base in Utah, taking into account the shape of the aircraft, and how its angles reflect light to the human eye. The paint is specially made for the arctic scheme, strong enough to sustain direct sunlight, rain and ice, high speeds and high G-force maneuverings, and stay flat and nonreflective.

“It’s a science that goes into the pattern itself,” Seitz said.

There’s also a science to painting the jets. Because of the high-contrast colors, airmen can’t let the first color of paint they apply dry until the entire job is completed. That means working 24 hours a day until the painting is done.

“Somebody was always working on this,” said Tech. Sgt. Brian Coffel, top enlisted officer at Kunsan’s corrosion control facility. “We had to change the way we do business.”

It took 12 airmen eight days to paint the first jet, and they expect to spend six or seven days painting the second.

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