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Red Tails take flight: Air Force honors the Tuskegee Airmen with uniforms vs. Navy

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Red helmets? Gray jerseys? Yes and yes. The Falcons are bringing the swag against the Midhsipmen.

Profile shot of Air Force Football’s Red Tails uniforms.
Gage Jenkins, Air Force Athletics

We haven’t had the chance to enjoy the Falcons on the football field yet this season, but on Monday, we got the next best thing: a new uniform.

When Troy Calhoun and Air Force take the field against the Navy Midshipmen on Oct. 3, they’ll do so in their fifth Air Power Legacy Series uniforms which honor the Tuskegee Airmen. You might know them as the Red Tails.

The uniforms are the head-to-toe embodiment of the P-51 Mustang, and no detail is too small. The jerseys and pants are gray with black lettering to reflect the body of the Mustang, while the patches that adorn the uniforms honor the 332nd Fighter Group and its four squadrons.

Let’s take a closer look at how the Falcons plan to honor the Tuskegee Airmen...

Who were the Red Tails?

Tuskegee Pilots Photo by Afro American Newspapers/Gado/Getty Images

They should need no introduction, but the Red Tails can be credited with helping to desegregate the military. Commissioned by FDR in 1940, the Tuskegee Airmen were a group of 900 African-American pilots who trained at Moton Field in Tuskegee, Alabama. The Airmen began with the 99th Pursuit Squadron, led by Benjamin O. Davis, Jr.

By early 1944, the 100th, 301st, and 302nd had also joined the 99th to form the 332nd Fighter Group. The 332nd was the only fighter group to include four squadrons instead of three, and the unit earned 96 Distinguished Flying Crosses and Distinguished Unit Citations. The Red Tails are also credited with shooting down 112 enemy planes and flying over 15,000 sorties.

Red tips, Red Tails

It’s not hard to see why the pilots of the 332nd were called the Red Tails. When the Falcons don these new uniforms, they'll patrol the gridiron in the same red and gray hallmarks of the Tuskegee Airmen's P-51 Mustangs.

Each red and gray helmet bears the patch of one of the four squadrons. As for the face masks, they're black to match the propellers of the Spitfires.

A rear view of the Air Force Falcons’ Red Tails uniforms
Gage Jenkins, Air Force Athletics

The red helmets may get most of the glory, but every detail down to the font is chosen for a reason. Each jersey wears the custom Red Tails nameplate which is inspired by the hand-painted names on each Tuskegee Mustang. The numbers on the jersey and the font on the pants are also reflective of the planes themselves.

Close up of the Air Force Falcons’ Red Tails cleats
Gage Jenkins, Air Force Athletics

However, no good rivalry jersey is complete without a dig at the foe — the other pant leg is adorned with 20 Commander-in-Chief trophies to honor each of Air Force’s wins over both Army and Navy. The gloves and shoulders also feature the Spitfire patch of the 332nd as well as the yellow stripes that you’d find on the wings of a P-51 Mustang.

If you want to learn more or buy some Red Tails gear, check out the tweet below: