Squadron Showcases F-15E Strike Eagles Adorned With Villain-Themed Nose Art Ahead Of Halloween

The artwork features well-known antagonists from comics, movies, and television, as well as real-life.

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It's not Halloween just yet, but the Air Force's 492nd Fighter Squadron appears to have gotten into the spirit of the season a bit early. The public affairs office at RAF Lakenheath in the United Kingdom, where the unit is based, posted pictures today of 14 of its F-15E Strike Eagles wearing nose art featuring comic book characters, movie and television show villains, and more.

Images of the nose art first appeared on the official RAF Lakenheath Facebook page on Oct. 28, 2020. The 492nd returned to the U.K. base earlier this month after a six-month rotation at Muwaffaq Salti Air Base in Jordan. Strike Eagles are among the most in-demand combat jets in the Air Force and the rotating contingents in Jordan have been heavily committed to various conflicts in the Middle East over the years, including the campaign against ISIS in Iraq and Syria, where they have even shot down Iranian drones. F-15Es flying from Muwaffaq Salti also notably supported the raid that resulted in the death of ISIS leader Abu Bakr Al Baghdadi last year, firing AGM-158 Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missiles to level the terrorist's compound at the conclusion of the operation.

RAF Lakenheath's Facebook post indicates that personnel applied the nose art sometime during the deployment, which appears to be becoming something of a trend in the region. Earlier this year, the Air Force released pictures of F-15C Eagles assigned to the 44th Fighter Squadron wearing their own vibrant nose art while deployed to Prince Sultan Air Base in Saudi Arabia.

"Vote for your favorite 492nd deployment 'Nose Art'!" the Facebook about the art on the 492nd's jets reads. "Winning shot will be announced on #F15Friday!"

This "F-15 Friday" also happens to be the day before Halloween, which gives this the air of something of a costume contest, as well. So let's see the entrants.

Comic book characters from both the Marvel and DC universes are by far the most numerous. Loki and Harley Quinn, foils for Marvel's Thor and DC's Batman, respectively, who often take the role of anti-heroes, as well, are present. One jet also has art depicting Michael B. Jordan as Erik Killmonger, an antagonist to Marvel's Black Panther and a key figure in Marvel's 2018 standalone film for that character, where he was portrayed as a tragic villain

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There are a number of other comic book villains, as well, including one Strike Eagle with a silhouette of Batman's iconic opponent the Joker rendered in the style of how the late Heath Ledger famously portrayed him in the 2008 film The Dark Knight. The nose art on another one of the aircraft shows the Green Goblin, a Marvel villain who often battles with Spider Man, but riding a Joint Direct Attack Munition (JDAM) precision-guided bomb instead of his typical glider.

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There is also something of a mashup of Thanos, a supervillain from the Marvel universe who was at the center of the films Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers: End Game, which came out in 2018 and 2019, respectively, and Turkish restaurateur Nusret Gökçe, better known by the nickname Salt Bae. Gökçe became an internet sensation a few years, particularly over his unusual style of applying salt to his meat, in which he sprinkles it dramatically. The Thanos nose art shows the purple alien wearing sunglasses, another Salt Bae trademark, and making a similar motion, but dropping bombs, instead. It's perhaps interesting to note that a French Navy officer assigned to the Combined Intelligence Fusion Cell (CIFC) at Al Udeid Air Base in Qatar was also seen wearing a Salt Bae-inspired morale patch, with JDAMs instead of salt, earlier this year.

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The nose art on two other jets features notable villains, as well. One is of Darth Vader, the iconic dark lord from the Star Wars franchise, while the other is of Rita Repulsa, who repeatedly challenged the Power Rangers in the original run of that show and should be instantly recognizable to Americans who grew up in the 1990s. 

Ray Finkle, a fictional former kicker for the Miami Dolphins football team with a vendetta against famous real-life quarterback Dan Marino, who assumes the identity of a woman named Lois Einhorn and is the principal antagonist in the 1994 Jim Carey comedy film Ace Ventura: Pet Detective, also makes an appearance on the side of one of the Strike Eagles.

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A "madhatter," an idea popularized in Lewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland, which has since found its way, in various forms, into other popular works of fiction, graces the nose of another one of the 492nd's jets. There is also a depiction of Vlad the Impaler, a European historical figure known for his cruelty, who may have been an inspiration of sorts for Bram Stoker's take on the legend of Count Dracula and who has now become inseparably linked with vampire stories.

Two of the F-15Es have nose art featuring real-world villains. One has artwork of the infamous Colombian drug lord Pablo Escobar, while another appears to refer to former Mexican drug kingpin Joaquín "El Chapo" Guzmán, who is now in prison in the United States.

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Last, but certainly not least, Joe Exotic, a central figure in the documentary mini-series Tiger King, which Netflix released earlier this year and quickly became a cultural phenomenon, is the subject of the nose art on one of the 492nd's Strike Eagles. The artwork has a playing card motif that shows Joe as a face card "king" and includes a silhouette of Oklahoma, where Joe Exotic's now-closed Greater Wynnewood Exotic Animal Park was located.

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Altogether, the nose art on the 492nd's F-15Es certainly contains a rogues gallery of characters, real and not. So, hop over to RAF Lakenheath's Facebook page in the next few days to let them know what one is your favorite and be sure to tell us your choice in the comments below.

Contact the author: joe@thedrive.com