Aviator and aircraft callsigns are the stuff of legend. In fiction, they can be iconic and instantly cool — think “Iceman” and “Maverick,” you know those are great — while in reality there isn’t a guarantee. Whatever the case, one U.S. Air Force pilot inside an F-15E Strike Eagle known as “Mullet” got a lot of attention online this week. It wasn’t for any of his actions, it’s because of what he took with him in the skies over the Middle East.

Yes, the pilot of Mullet has a pack of Zyn on the dash of his F-15E Strike Eagle. 

Zyn, a brand of nicotine pouches sold in cases, has become popular as an alternative to cigarettes. Like snus it’s consumed by placing it between the lip and the gum, making it a hands-free way to get nicotine, likely why it’s in the fighter jet cockpit. Photos of the Zyn in the cockpit, and the amazing art on the plane itself have gone viral on social media.

The pilot and his F-15E are part of the 494th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron, which recently returned back to base after taking part in U.S. operations in the Middle East. The 494th, along with the 335th Fighter Squadron, shot down more than 80 Iranian drones fired toward Israel on April 13-14. It’s not just the name though. The F-15E Strike Eagle is adorned with some ornate art depicting both a guy with sunglasses, mullet and mustache as well as a bald eagle with a mullet looking at a setting sun. One tail wing sports the words “business in the front, party in the back.” Add in the Zyn on the dash and this guy is ‘90s Daytona Beach spring break personified.

The viral photos were taken by the crew of an aerial tanker during a refueling operation, likely why the pilot was looking up and throwing the horns.

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And Mullet’s pilot has the air combat skills to go with the sweet nose art. As Task & Purpose wrote about on May 11, several F-15E Strike Eagles from the 494th returned back to their base at RAF Lakenheath in the United Kingdom, with some new kill markings along the nose of the jets. Mullet sports nine AIM-9X missile silhouettes. Other F-15Es sport similar markings. 

Sadly, it appears that whoever this pilot of the jet with the magnificent nose art is, is not sporting a mullet. Photos of the Air Force officers returning home show a distinct lack of business in front, party in back haircuts. Regulation strikes again. Many of the pilots however are sporting fantastic mustaches, including squadron commander Lt. Col. Curtis “Voodoo” Culver. 

The 494th is back in the United Kingdom after seven months in the CENTCOM area of operations. It’s unclear what its next deployment will be, but there’s a good chance a tin of Zyn goes with the squadron.

Correction: 5/13/2024: An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated that “Mullet” was the pilot’s callsign. It is the name for the fighter jet.

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