WHITEMAN AIR FORCE BASE, Mo. --
The 442nd Fighter Wing's A-10 Thunderbolt IIs received their first set of teeth on May 13.
The aircraft, commonly called the "warthog" have been flying for more than 40 years. In fact, a few days earlier marked the anniversary of the first A-10 flight on May 10, 1972. While the wing is scheduled to begin a transition to F-16 aircraft in 2018, Senior Airman Spencer Stringer, an aircraft structural maintenance technician, decided it was time for the aircraft to get their teeth.
"I don't care if the plane goes to the bone yard next week," said Stringer. "If it sits there for the next 30 years it'll have teeth."
Teeth are part of the A-10 Thunderbolt II's heritage -- many wings wear variations of the nose art -- but the 442nd FW had not received permission to add the distinctive feature when Stringer arrived here in 2013.
"I asked, 'why don't ours have teeth?'" he recalled.
Stringer's supervisor, Master Sgt. Geary Rose, agreed to help him with the application and his team researched A-10 teeth that had been used in the past. As a shop, they picked out features they liked. For example, Stringer felt it was important for his warthogs to have tusks.
"It's something I've always wanted to do," said Rose. "If you Google A-10s all you see are ones with teeth. An A-10 has to have teeth."
The shop created an original design unique to the 4wing.
"We didn't want Barksdale's teeth or Moody's teeth. We wanted our own teeth," Rose added. "Then we had to sell the idea."
The shopneeded permission from the wing commander, and had to petition to adapt other mandatory aircraft markings. Rose got approval to remove aircraft numbers from the nose and move them further back on the plane. Another challenge was creating a two-dimensional design for the three-dimensional object.
Rose's application was approved just before his shop's deployment to Afghanistan in 2014. They were excited, but did not have time to paint the aircraft before they deployed.
Since the shop's return to Whiteman, painting the teeth is done during each aircraft's routine painting schedule, which adds one day to the painting schedule. Stringer and Rose expect all the wing's A-10s will be scowling within the next year.
"We'll be able to recognize them in the bone yard," said Master Sgt. Christopher Barton, the lead crew chief dedicated to aircraft 123 -- the first to receive teeth. He affectionately rubbed the plane's nose.
"When they come in for paint they'll leave with the face," Stringer explained.
Rose recalls very little resistance to the idea. Although, he added, there was some skepticism since the aircraft had flown for so long without wearing the nose art. Other units have worn iconic heritage nose art for years.
But, he concluded, "Heritage has to start somewhere."