Tuesday, 7 June 2016

4 Wing unveils special jet to commemorate 75 years of 419 squadron

For the Lakeland Regional.

The newly painted CT-155 Hawk on display in front of the 419 "Mooseman" hangar at CFB 4 Wing on June 2.
Eric Bowling
A fighter squadron at CFB 4 Wing was given a very unique birthday gift last week.

Members of the Canadian Forces 419 Squadron gathered at their hanger on June 2 for the unveiling of a specially painted CT-155 Hawk Fighter Jet – painted in the camouflage style that Canadian and Allied bombers used in the Second World War – to commemorate the squadron’s 75th anniversary.

The camouflage on the top makes the plane difficult to see from above, and the black underbelly makes the plane blend in with the night sky, which was when most bombing missions were conducted at the time.

There is deep symbolism in the design of the plane. The “VR-W” on the side of the aircraft commemorates the Victor-Romeo call sign that Canadian bombers used during the allied campaign against the Nazis, and the “W” portion is a nod to the original Wellington Bomber that was flown by 419’s first Wing Commander John “Moose” Fulton, who commanded the unit in from 1941 to 1942 when the original VR-W was shot down in action with no survivors.

Fulton’s name is also written on both sides of the plane.

While the spiffy paint job is intended to look authentic, designer Jim Belliveau explained that it is based more on an ideal of what the original Wellington Bombers looked like than the actual camouflage that was common by the end of the war.

“I wanted to take the disruptive camouflage scheme and stay as true to the original as possible,” explained Belliveau. “In the Second World War, what they used to do was they had these large rubber mats that were cut with these particular designs.

When the aircraft rolled through the assembly line they would throw these mats down on the wings or drape them over the side and someone would come along with a paint gun and simply paint between the rubber mats. It was the easiest, fastest way to pump out these things.”

He continued, “The end result was you ended up with a camouflage theme that was more or less hard-lined. As the aircraft went out into the field the painting process got more rudimentary and quick and you ended up with more blurred lines.”

The idea came about rather quickly.

Belliveau explained that originally the plan was to simply paint the tail of the warbird, but he suggested that the entire jet could be painted too and, much to his surprise, the military brass decided to go for it.

The project was funded by CAE, who holds the main contract for maintenance of the 419 aircraft. The warbird itself was painted at a hanger in Peterborough, ON. Flying Colours Corp. was awarded the honour of applying the paint job.

The vintage-coloured fighter jet will be put to work as part of 419’s mission to train up and coming fighter pilots. Fighters in 419 learn air-to-air combat tactics, more commonly known as dogfighting, as well as air-to-surface combat tactics. Once a pilot has been evaluated, they move on to the 410 squadron for further training.

“The scheduled program is about four to six months for a brand new fighter pilot to come through here,” said Lt.-Col. Mike “Moose” Grover, who estimates that the 419 trains between 30-35 new pilots a year. “It’s a selection course. We test their situational awareness and their decision making capacity. ”

It is a tradition that the commanding officer of 419 automatically gets the nickname “Moose.” The squadron was dubbed the “Moosemen” back in 1941 and the name has stuck with the unit ever since.
Grover flew the plane in from Peterborough earlier in the week, and members of the 419 have already developed a lengthy waiting list to get a crack at flying the beast.

“There’s a bit of a list, that’s for sure,” joked Grover, adding that the 4 Wing portion of 419 has a total of six CT-155s at its disposal.

In spite of the intended heavy use of the plane, the paint job is expected to last through its service. Belliveau said that the paint is designed to withstand some of the harshest environmental conditions possible.

“It’s made to be able put up with a lot of the things that it will encounter. Things like 600 mph winds, fuel, hydraulic fuel and UV rays,” boasted Belliveau. “The paint itself is almost bulletproof. It’s wonderful stuff.”

The 419 not only trains Canadian fighter pilots, but also pilots from air forces around the world as part of Canada’s international commitments. Airmen from Germany, Britain, France, Hungary and even Singapore were present for the historic showing.

“It’s a multi-national squadron, which is both unique and relevant,” explained Grover. “That’s what we go to combat with in fighter jets; a coalition of many countries. So to train the students at this age and teach them the different air force fighter cultures is exactly what they’re going to be doing in the future.”

The one-of-a-kind CT-155 began flying new pilots as of June 3.

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