KEESLER AIR FORCE BASE, Miss. -- The Hurricane Hunters have returned to their roots with a vintage paint scheme on their aircraft in an effort to save money and manpower.
The 53rd Weather Reconnaissance Squadron brought the first of 10 freshly-painted WC-130J Super Hercules back to Keesler Air Force Base, Mississippi, on April 5.
According to technical data, the planes' old tactical gray required touch-up painting on the leading edges of the wings and on the vertical tail fin after each two-week storm rotation as compared to three to four storm rotations for the glossy gray.
"The damage caused during the weather flights to the tactical gray paint would sometimes go all the way down to the metal, where the same type of weather damage to the glossy gray paint doesn’t have the same effect," said Senior Master Sgt. Stephen Connors, 403rd Maintenance Squadron fabrication flight chief.
Prior to 2007, the squadron’s weather reconnaissance aircraft all had glossy gray paint for its durability, longevity, and efficiency.
"It also differentiates our platform from ready-for-combat C130 aircraft and especially ‘other’ reconnaissance platforms, since our missions are strictly for peacetime weather data collection," Lt. Col. Erik Olson, 53rd WRS director of operations, said.
The Hurricane Hunters are the only Department of Defense unit that provides surveillance of tropical storms and hurricanes in the Atlantic Ocean, Caribbean Sea, Gulf of Mexico and central Pacific Ocean for the National Hurricane Center in Miami.
Their data is then shared with government and meteorological agencies to become better prepared when hurricanes approach.
"Providing this timely data is made more effective through cooperation with foreign governments, whether coordinating overflight to minimize en route time to working diplomatic clearances in order to fly a hurricane to landfall inside territorial waters," said Lt Col Byron Hudgins, 53rd WRS chief pilot.
Hudgins said using a gloss gray paint scheme changes the look from a tactical purpose and is a visual reinforcement that the WC-130J is there to help.
The glossy gray paint scheme also holds up better to the weathering elements during hurricane season than the tactical gray paint scheme.
"And when it comes to maintenance and touch-up painting, the glossy gray lasts longer," Connors said.
'Weather' markings on the tail flash were also added.
"We are more than just the ‘Hurricane Hunters,’ and the tail flash of ‘Weather’ better represents our multiple missions," said Olson.
The 53rd WRS also flies reconnaissance into winter storms in the Northeast and into atmospheric rivers on the West Coast collecting weather data year-round to improve forecasts.