U.S. F-16 pilots flying on Dec. 25, celebrated Christmas Day wearing a Santa Hat.
It’s probably a tradition, still you won’t find too many pictures of fighter pilots wearing a Santa Hat on their flight helmet while joining the tanker for AAR (Air-to-Air Refueling) during a combat mission.
According to the U.S. Air Force, “many pilots wore a traditional red “Santa” hat while flying on Christmas Day,” in support of Operation Inherent Resolve against ISIS in Iraq and Syria.
Those in this post were taken from a KC-10 Extender over Iraq on Dec. 25, 2016, and they show F-16 belonging to the 134th Fighter Squadron of the Vermont ANG (Air National Guard) based at Burlington, VT, known as “The Green Mountain Boys.”
This ANG squadron, flying F-16C/D Block 30s is part of the 158th Fighter Wing, and will be the first ANG group to operate the F-35.
The top image is noteworthy because it shows an interesting load out made of an air-to-air complement for air intercepts with tanks for extended range, as well as a LITENING targeting pod and SDB (Small Diameter Bombs.)
The GBU-39 SDB is a small 250-lb multipurpose, insensitive, penetrating bomb with a blast-fragmentation warhead for stationary targets. It is equipped with deployable wings for extended standoff range that open upon release allowing the GPS-guided bomb to glide for several miles before hitting the target with accuracy: launched at high-speed from high altitude it can travel for as much as 50 miles, allowing the attack plane (be it an F-16, F-15E or AC-130W, the largest aircraft to carry this kind of weapon) to remain outside the range of most SAM (Surface-to-Air Missile) batteries.
As we have already reported here, among the Lessons Learned of the Air War in Libya, there was the need to employ SDBs to improve accuracy from distance and reduce collateral damage.
Back to the Santa Hat, in August 2015, a post about a lace-trimmed ejection seat headrest cover in a North Korean MiG-29 Fulcrum generated a pretty interesting comment thread about non-standard/non-fire retardant things in the cockpit….
Image credit: U.S. Air Force