During the last month, a design for the “Adir” F-35I stealth fighter’s tail was chosen. The design will join dozens of tails of different kinds of aircraft active in the IAF, all painted with their unique colors and that strengthen the squadron personnel’s connection to the squadron’s legacy. Here is their story

Vered Talala | Translation: Ohad Zeltzer Zubida

The first “Adir” (F-35I) stealth fighters are expected to land in Israel in less than six months and the preparations are at their peak: the infrastructure necessary to integrate the jets has already been built, soon, a pioneer team of pilots will fly to “Lockheed Martin” Facilities for conversion training and in the past month, a design for the stealth fighter tail was decided upon. A moment before the first “Adir” pilots take off in order to acquire the knowledge that will help them make their vision a reality, this is the story behind the design of the stealth fighter’s tail and other aircraft’s tails.

Stealth Tail
The “Adir” will be the first stealth fighter in the IAF and upon its landing it will bring new abilities to the force. In order to design a tail for a stealth fighter, while considering its different characteristics and without damaging its unique abilities, careful work with suitable means is necessary.

Ra’anan Weiss, a graphic designer that has been working with the IAF for many years and that has designed many squadron symbols and aircraft tails in the past 25 years, explains the story behind the design of the “Adir” tails. “The squadron approached me to design a new symbol for them in preparation for the arrival of the jets and afterwards it was decided that I would design the jets’ tail as well”, Weiss shared. “Because it is a stealth fighter, it cannot be painted in regular colors that are usually used. The Americans defined one hue of grey, which doesn’t damage the jet’s stealth, with which we will paint all of the markings. They are currently developing more hues which will be usable on the jets”.

The background of the “Golden Eagle” Squadron’s symbol is colored in black and in the center of the symbol there is a yellow bird and behind it green lines that create a 3-D sensation, so it looks like the bird is coming closer. The frame of the symbol is grey and indicates the color of the “Adir” jets. “The artistic background for the tail design was the squadron symbol that I designed. The bird in the symbol is the same bird from the squadron’s old symbol, which we modernized. I kept its general guidelines but sharpened the wings and feathers and created ‘shoulders’, so it would look like the F-35I. The new bird has elements that imply to fighter jets and attack”.

How to Design a Tail for a Stealth Fighter-Jet

The Americans defined one hue of grey, which doesn’t damage the jet’s stealth | Illustration: Ra’anan Weiss

To Design a Scorpion
A few months before the “Scorpion” Sqaudron’s “Barak” (F-16C/D) jets landed in Hazor AFB in 1991, the establishment team led by Maj. Gen. (Res.) Ido Nehushtan, decided that a unique illustration that will indicate the squadron’s fighting spirit would be displayed on the tails of the new jets.

Weiss began designing. “In a pre-computer age I sketched with a pencil and brush with camouflage colors, just like the F-16’s and created different drafts of tails for the squadron. Finally, the design that adorns the jets today was decided upon: a sand colored scorpion on a brown background which symbolizes the ‘Scorpion’ Squadron. On the base of the tail, I drew two arrow heads in memory of the identification marks that were on the F-4 ‘Phantom’ and ‘Super-Mystere’ jets that the squadron used to operate”.

How to Design a Tail for a Stealth Fighter-Jet

The unique illustration indicates the squadron’s fighting spirit | Photography: Nir Ben-Yosef

An Orange Wave
The orange color that escorts the “Knights of the Orange Tail” Squadron since its days as an F-4 ‘Phantom’ Squadron in the early 70’s and is manifested on the tail of the squadron’s jets. “When we thought about a tail design, we wanted to maintain the squadron’s legacy and maintain the orange color motif”, shared an aircrew member who took part in the establishment of the squadron.

An orange wave is painted on the tails of the squadron’s aircraft, it begins wide and becomes thin. “The round arc creates movement to the future. The Squadron’s new ‘Sufa’ (F-16I) jets were a new generation of the ‘Knights of the Orange Tail’, a new and advanced aircraft which symbolizes a new era. We searched for something to maintain the motif, but also indicate change and renewal”.

“When I approach a tail design, I first think about the squadron’s character, go back, look at the squadron’s history and see what characterizes it”, explains Weiss.

How to Design a Tail for a Stealth Fighter-Jet

The orange color has escorted the “Knights of the Orange Tail” Squadron since the early 70’s | Photography: Nir Ben-Yosef

The Eagle’s Head
After Weiss designed the “White Eagle” UAV Squadron’s (which operates the “Eitan” (Heron TP) UAV, the largest UAV in the IAF) symbol, it was decided to paint the UAV’s tails with similar elements.

“We took the main motif in the squadron symbol, which is the white eagle and expressed it in the tail”, describes Maj. Omer, one of the squadron’s establishers. “The idea of the tails design was to maximize the main motif with a minimal illustration. It was a relatively simple tail in relation to jet fighters”, explained Weiss. “The colors that appear in the squadron symbol remained: black, red and white”.

How to Design a Tail for a Stealth Fighter-Jet

“The idea of the tails design was to maximize the main motif with a minimal illustration” | Photography: Nir Ben-Yosef