A Lockheed-Martin F-22A Raptor belonging to the “Fighting Eagles” of the 27th Fighter Squadron from Joint Base Langley-Eustis, Virginia spent some time with the F-22 Combined Test Force at Edwards AFB, California this past year, playing a part in the Signature Management Program designed to help maintain the Raptor’s low-observable traits as radar and detection technologies improve. While that part isn’t that noteworthy, the specific aircraft that took part is.

Tail 09-174, assigned to the 27 FS, is adorned with artwork designating the airplane as “Maloney’s Pony,” an homage to Major Thomas E. Maloney. For those of you history mavens out there, Maloney was the Fighting Eagles’ highest-scoring ace of World War II–credited with eight victories.

In August of 1944, during an attack on a German supply train in France, Maloney crashed his Lockheed P-38 Lightning into the Mediterranean. Thought dead, Maloney survived and made it to shore, where he hoped to find the French Resistance and ask for their assistance to get home. Severely injured after stepping on a landmine, Maloney evaded capture for ten days before he was rescued.

Maloney's Pony
Rick Maloney, son of Maj. Thomas E. Maloney, a World War II Ace, and Lt. Col. Jason “Bigbee” Hinds, 27 FS/DO, unveil artwork displayed on the body of an F-22 Raptor at Langley Air Force Base, Va., June 24, 2011. The artwork was painted on the Raptor in honor of Maloney, the 27th Fighter Squadron’s highest scoring Ace of World War II. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Teresa Cleveland/Released)

From that time forward, the Two-Seven has always had an airplane designated as “Maloney’s Pony.” The tradition went on hiatus when the 27th began fielding the F-22, given the paint and special coatings on the aircraft’s skin to keep it stealthy; but, in 2011, the commander of the Fighting Eagles, Lieutenant Colonel Pete “Coach” Fesler, reinstituted the tradition.

A very cool story worthy of telling, and to add and extra dose of awesome, “Maloney’s Pony” was the first F-22 into Syrian airspace the night Operation Inherent Resolve kicked off. What’s cooler than that? It was being flown by a good friend of ours.

Maloney's Pony
The “Maloney’s Pony” artwork is displayed on the body of an F-22 Raptor at Langley Air Force Base, Va., June 24, 2011. The artwork was painted on the Raptor in honor of Maj. Thomas E. Maloney, the 27th Fighter SquadronÕs highest scoring Ace of World War II. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Teresa Cleveland/Released)

The original article at The Aviationist can be viewed here.

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