The cool “Splinter” paint scheme was inadvertently invented for U.S. Marine Corps F/A-18 Hornets

“Splinter” paint schemes have become a distinguishing feature of U.S. Air Force Aggressors and later appeared on Iranian F-14s (under the name of Asian Minor II camouflage).

The “splinter” pattern is used to make the fighter jet to which it is applied similar to a Russian 4th and 5th generation aircraft.

Noteworthy, we have recently received an email from Gregory Slusher, a reader of The Aviationist, who explained in a really interesting email how the color scheme was “inadvertently invented” for U.S. Marine Corps F/A-18 Hornets.

“As a young U.S. Marine Sergent, me and my fellow corrosion control techs inadvertently invented the paint design,” Slusher explains.

“The squadron in question is F/A-18 squadron VMFAT-101 out of Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, California. The unit is a pilot training squadron and as such features quite a bit of air-to-air training. With the standard grey paint scheme, rookie Hornet pilots could not distinguish their targets from “friendlies.” My CO tasked our corrosion shop with creating and aggressive paint scheme that would help to aid the young pilots in target ID. It took us a few attempts, but we settled on a randomly placed collection of geometric shapes.”

So, the “splinter” color scheme was not introduced to make the jets similar to their Russian adversaries, just to make them more visible.

Tail number 26 was our prototype, and is obviously not as angular. We were not completely satisfied. Tail number 34 was when we had really hit upon a formula that we and the command enjoyed. Tail number 12 was a desert variant and our favorite of the jets we painted. Initially we did not paint the radome since they are swapped frequently. Later, the shop gained the approval to paint them.”

Splinter F-18 side

Image credit: Gregory Slusher

If you “google” VMFAT-101, you would see much of their work, as it has been photographed quite extensively at air shows, well before other services decided to apply a similar paint scheme to their planes.

Top image: Capt. John “Tank” Voss, USMC via Gregory Slusher


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About David Cenciotti
David Cenciotti is a journalist based in Rome, Italy. He is the Founder and Editor of “The Aviationist”, one of the world’s most famous and read military aviation blogs. Since 1996, he has written for major worldwide magazines, including Air Forces Monthly, Combat Aircraft, and many others, covering aviation, defense, war, industry, intelligence, crime and cyberwar. He has reported from the U.S., Europe, Australia and Syria, and flown several combat planes with different air forces. He is a former 2nd Lt. of the Italian Air Force, a private pilot and a graduate in Computer Engineering. He has written five books and contributed to many more ones.