Behold The Naked Warplanes Of Tinker Air Force Base
With the depot maintenance mission for a number of big jets, Tinker AFB offers rare glimpses of what these planes look like without their paint.
Tinker Air Force Base in Oklahoma is something of a Mecca for many of the Air Force's large aircraft. Beyond being home plate for the service's E-3 Sentry airborne warning and control (AWACS) community, as well as a major KC-135 tanker base, among other functions, it serves as the depot maintenance and upgrade center for the B-1, B-52, E-3, E-6, and KC-135. More recently, it picked up the same role for the Air Force's fledgling KC-46 fleet. Due to that depot maintenance mission — where the aircraft essentially get disassembled and refurbished — these aircraft take to the skies over the base from time-to-time looking unlike they would anywhere else — totally naked.
One photographer, who goes by the handle Redhome Aviation, has captured Tinker's 'naked planes' in spectacular fashion and has posted some of the shots on his Instagram page. After seeing some of these awesome shots on Instagram, I reached out to him for a bit of background and to see if we could do a full layout. He was up to the task in both regards.
Here is some commentary about the images and a bit more about how Tinker Air Force Base is an aviation photographer's dream spot from Redhome Aviation:
As a photojournalist, the area is ideal for aviation photography. After depot maintenance is accomplished on the aircraft, they are flown by the 10th Flight Test Squadron of the Air Force Reserve Command. After maintenance, the aircraft are typically sent for paint before their test flight, but on the occasions where their scheduled date in the paint barn is after the aircraft has cleared post dock, we get the rare 'naked' flight.
The rarest aircraft to photograph in the nude is the B-1B Lancer, while the most famous aircraft in the buff was B-52H Stratofortress 60-0034 "Wise Guy" after restoration from the 309th Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Group, Davis-Monthan AFB, AZ in December 2020. We have even been afforded the views of a disassembled B-1B 86-0101 "Watchman" on her way via road to Wichita State University for digital imaging of her entire frame.
We have a special location in the heart of Oklahoma where we get to see the hard work of the 76th Aircraft Maintenance Group, the 76th Propulsion Maintenance Group, and the expert aviating of the world's best aviators. There is no better spot in the world to see the E-3s of America's Wing, the E-6B Mercury of STRATCOM Wing 1, KC-135s of the SH Okies gracing the skies, or the aviators in training from Vance AFB, Altus AFB, and Sheppard AFB as they practice navigation and approaches on one of the best airfields in the country.
If all of that isn't good enough for you, stay for the thunder in your chest of a B-1B on a full send departure or the eight TF33s of the mighty BUFF screaming as she climbs into the sky, naked as a jaybird.
Now, without further ado, check out some fascinating 'naked plane' shots from Redhome Aviation:
OC-135B Open Skies
Bonus! A Marine KC-130J Hercules
A huge thanks once again to Redhome Aviation for sharing his great shots with us. Make sure to check out his website here, his Instagram page here, and his Facebook page here, you won't be sorry!
Contact the editor: Tyler@thedrive.com