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Low-visibility checkerboard on Polish F-35A confirmed

Chief of the General Staff of the Polish Armed Forces, General Wiesław Kukuła, confirmed that future Polish Lockheed Martin F-35A Lightning II multi-role aircraft will receive a gray-scale Polish Air Force checkerboard national markings.

On Sunday, April 28, 2024, Chief of the General Staff of the Polish Armed Forces, General Wiesław Kukuła, confirmed in a post on the social media platform X that future Polish multi-role aircraft Lockheed Martin F-35A Lightning II will have the Polish Air Force checkerboard insignia in gray-scale color scheme (so-called low-visibility or low-vis) instead of traditional white-and-red ones. Although some mainstream media outlets sensationalized this topic with dramatic headlines, it is not surprising.

Images: Lockheed Martin

The Chief of the General Staff of the Polish Armed Forces officially confirmed, in a post by editor Tomasz Dmitruk from Dziennik Zbrojny and Nowa Technika Wojskowa, what was expected.

Polish F-35s will not feature traditional white-and-red checkers. Instead, on this model, we will apply checkers in a grayscale defined by covering technology. We are changing the regulations in this regard. (…) This is a conscious decision – we even received information on how it will affect the probability of detection. The most important thing is ‘warfighting’ and the safety of our pilots, informed General Wiesław Kukuła.

In fact, the white-and-red aircraft checkerboard was officially presented only during the XXVIII International Defence Industry Exhibition (MSPO) in Kielce in 2020 on a model of the F-35A aircraft at Lockheed Martin’s booth (less than eight months after Poland signed the contract to purchase these aircraft). It seems that it was merely a marketing move by the manufacturer, intended only to highlight the arrival of a new user of the F-35 aircraft.

Model of F-35A on MSPO 2020 / Photo: MILMAG Archives

Starting from the XXIX MSPO 2021, the presented model shown checkerboard in shades of gray:

Photo: Lockheed Martin

Lockheed Martin presented future Polish aircraft with low-vis color scheme checkerboards in following press releases and promotional materials (see also the main photo):

As for the currently applicable law, according to the regulation issued by the Minister of National Defense on February 6, 2012, amending the regulation on the manner of using signs of the Armed Forces of the Republic of Poland, checkerboards on aircraft, specifically airplanes, are placed on both sides of the vertical stabilizer (in the case of twin vertical stabilizers, only on the outer surfaces of the vertical stabilizers) and on the lower and upper surfaces of the left and right wing (in the case of biplanes – on the lower surfaces of the left and right lower wings and on the upper surfaces of the left and right upper wings).

Therefore, the checkerboards shown in press materials on the front part of the fuselage under the pilot’s cabin or on the middle part of the fuselage where the engine air intake is located are non-regulatory (following their placement on aircraft of other users worldwide), which has been pointed out after the presentation of the first visualizations. Nevertheless, in other NATO countries, signs of reduced visibility or asymmetrical distribution are allowed.

The low-vis checkerboard project based on promotional materials (Note: it should not be treated as an official pattern, as it must be approved by the Chief of the General Staff of the Polish Armed Forces) / Photo: Wikimedia Commons

In principle, almost all current and future users of the F-35 have implemented or plan to apply their air force signs in shades of gray. The exception is the Danes, whose aircraft received, interestingly, white-and-red signs, consistent with their national colors (to be more precise: red-and-light gray). From earlier information, it appears that the red color was achieved thanks to a dye specially developed at the request of the government in Copenhagen, compatible with a special RAM (Radar Absorbent Material) coating applied to all F-35 aircraft, which aims to absorb radar waves.

One of the four Danish F-35A aircraft delivered so far. / Photo: Danish Ministry of Defense

Another exception is the single Israeli F-35I Adir, but this is merely an experimental specimen, delivered in August 2020, which serves at the Tel Nof Air Base in the Central District for experimental integration of domestically produced avionics and weaponry. Apart from the blue Star of David on a white circle, various other multicolored elements can be observed. It is worth noting that this is the only experimental F-35 outside the USA, and these do not have to adhere to the requirement of using low-vis colors. For instance, on experimental and test aircraft used in the USA, multicolored flags of countries participating in the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) program are placed, as well as the colors of test units to which they are assigned.

Photo: Amit Agronow, Chejl-ha Awir

Meanwhile, today marks the end of the competition for the name of the Polish F-35A, organized by the General Staff of the Polish Armed Forces, and among nearly 800 proposals, the most frequently mentioned were: Halny (Polish Highland Wind), Husarz (Winged Hussar), Harpia (Harpy), Dracarys, and Duch (Ghost).

The premiere of the first Polish aircraft of this type is getting closer. On April 25th of this year, the American newspaper Arkansas Business reported, citing its sources in the US Department of Defense, that in the fall of this year, the first Polish soldiers will arrive at the Ebbing Air Base of the Arkansas National Guard in Fort Smith to begin training on F-35A aircraft produced for Poland. This means that the presentation should take place in the coming weeks or months, as assembly began last year.


The General Staff of the Polish Armed Forces announced that the Polish F-35s will be named Husarz:

… and replaced wrong picture of the aircraft with the correct one.


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