Using an Arduino to Light a Grounded F-16

Using an Arduino to Light a Grounded F-16


Arduino boards and military hardware don’t generally go together. For a piece of hardware that is no longer in use and will be on display, however, it makes a great method for lighting control. In this case, the lights go to an F-16, beautifully restored for the National Museum of Nuclear Science and History. Although he’s not completely sure, author Craig Hollabaugh thinks that this is the first non-moving F-16 on display with working lights.

The project itself started with a question of how hard it would be to get the lights working again. Craig had little doubt that this could be done, and, rather than fool with a lot of soldering, decided to design and buy a shield for this purpose. I’m not a fan of melting metal unless it’s absolutely necessary, so I definitely like his style.


Even with a nicely designed shield, installation still took several days, and it looks like there was actually quite a bit of soldering involved. The controller was hidden in the F-16’s empty Gatling gun bay.

Once things were finished, and the plane was revealed, two senators, dignitaries, and a brigadier general showed up to watch. Although it took longer than Craig was expecting, he really enjoyed the experience of meeting those people as well as museum volunteers for the project. Be sure to check out the lights in action in the videos below.

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Jeremy is an engineer with 10 years experience at his full-time profession, and has a BSME from Clemson University. Outside of work he’s an avid maker and experimenter, building anything that comes into his mind!

View more articles by Jeremy S Cook


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