Category Archives: military

P-8 Tries to Trick Me

The afternoon lighting was looking good and, when I saw a P-8 was up, I was tempted to get some shots.  When I saw the Dornier was also coming in, it helped make up my mind.  Even better, it spared me from a fruitless trip.  The P-8 was out of Boeing Field and was scheduled to make approaches at Everett before returning to base.  I would have been tempted to shoot it up there but, with the 328Jet in the mix, I figured Boeing Field was it.

As it turned out, the flight plan for Everett was a distraction.  I watched the jet heading back up from Oregon and it looked like it was coming direct to Boeing Field.  That was indeed the case.  No approach to Everett.  If I had been up there, I would have been pretty annoyed.  As it was, I got the arrival, even if the conditions were nowhere near as nice as they had been when I first headed out.  This one was a US Navy example.

Red Flag Night Launches

Adobe periodically updates the processing algorithms that are used by Lightroom and Photoshop. Each update provides some improvements in how raw files are processed and it can be good to go back to older shots and to see how the newer process versions handle the images.  I find this particularly useful for images shot in low light and with high ISO.

I have some standard process settings I use but have also experimented with modified settings for use with high ISOs and the higher noise levels that come with them.  I got to some night launch shots from an old Red Flag exercise and had a play with the images.  The E-3 launch was actually as the light was going down but it still had some illumination so it didn’t need much work.

The KC-135 and B-1B shots were a different story and were at high ISOs and with very little light.  I was able to update the process version and apply some new settings I had worked out since the original processing and it resulted in some pretty reasonable outputs considering how little light there was to work with.

MC-130 on Exercise

In this previous post about the hangars at Moffett Field, I mentioned that I was there to cover an exercise.  The MC-130s were a big part of the exercise.  They were loading up and launching down to remote landing strips on the California coast.  The holds were full of equipment including off road vehicles.  Loading these up was a tight fit.  While the crews spent time getting everything ready to go, I was reasonably free to wander around the airframe and get some shots.

Here are some that I got that day.  These were some of the oldest Combat Shadow (and maybe Hercules) airframes around at the time and I suspect that they have been replaced by now, I think by Combat King J models.

First JASDF KC-46 Pegasus

The Japanese (JASDF) were a customer for the tanker version of the Boeing 767 when Boeing was offering it in the early days.  Japan and Italy were the only customers that I am aware of for that aircraft.  Therefore, it was not a massive surprise that Japan ordered the KC-46 when Boeing developed it for the USAF.  The first aircraft is now being completed and has been parked on the ramp up at Everett recently.  Here it is undergoing some testing.  Hopefully we shall get to see it flying soon.

F-15E Strike Eagle

A recent anniversary of the first flight of the F-15E Strike Eagle was commemorated on a Facebook group and it got me looking through a variety of old shots I have of the jet.  Having found a bunch of them that I liked, I figured I might share a few of them on the blog too.  Here are a few of my favorites from over the years.

A Bonus With the A-26

Aside from my two HondaJets and a little other traffic, things were not looking too busy at Boeing Field.  I was contemplating my next move when I glanced at FlightRadar and saw a Douglas A-26 was flying over Seattle.  This is one that is based at Renton and used as a personal transport by the owner.  I have never seen it in action before.  Consequently, I was quite excited.  At first, I thought it looked like it was turning towards Boeing Field which would have been handy but then it headed north up towards the San Juan Islands.

I figured that, even if it was landing up there, it would be coming back to Renton later on so headed off in that direction to work out what flow the pattern was using.  The A-26 had departed over the lake to the north but all of the movements now seemed to be from the north so I figured it would come in from that direction.  No chance of shooting it from above at the overlook point at the south end but still plenty of options.

Unfortunately, they have closed off part of the park at the north end of the field and erected fencing.  This takes away an area of higher ground which gives a good view of the threshold.  However, with a couple of Cessnas bashing the circuit, I was able to see roughly what would be good and what wouldn’t.  A check on FlightRadar showed that they had finished flying around the San Juans and were coming back over the city.

They followed the water from the coast in to Lake Washington and I thought would be coming straight for me.  However, they continued over Bellevue instead.  I wondered if they were off somewhere else but soon they had turned back and were heading for Renton.  Looking up the lake, I could pick them out a long way out, long before they had even configured for landing.  With the fall foliage still evident on some of the shorelines, it made for quite a nice shot – something that wouldn’t have been the case at the other end.

The A-26 is pretty speedy so they were soon on final approach and I grabbed a bunch of shots both tight and wider.  Then they zipped by and behind the newly erected fencing!  I packed up my stuff and headed off but, as I drove back south, I saw they were still on the ramp outside the hangar.  I pulled in a watched them put the plane away.  Only at the last minute did I realize that I could have got a closer shot from near the gate but I shouldn’t complain given how lucky I had been to see them out on my day off.

Shock Diamonds and the F-22

Within the very high speed flows of air in an aircraft’s exhaust, you can set up a series of shock waves and expansion fans as a result of the differences between the pressure of the flow and that of the surrounding air.  When afterburner is engaged, the hot gases and the temperature changes these shocks and expansions cause, result in a diamond pattern forming in the exhaust plume.  In darker conditions, these diamonds are more conspicuous but they are visible even in normal daylight.

These diamond patterns are a function of the flow being symmetrical since most engines have round exhaust nozzles.  This isn’t the case for the F-22, though.  It has flattened nozzles with a pointed profile top and bottom.  This got me wondering what the effect is on the exhaust plume and whether the traditional diamonds are formed or whether the nozzle shape results in a different pattern of shock and expansions as they reflect within the plume.  I decided to dig in to some shots to see what I could find.

I don’t have a lot of F-22 afterburner shots.  While I have shot them a lot taking off, they often take off without afterburner.  Since they have plenty of power and burner use dramatically increases fuel consumption (and the F-22 is not over-endowed with range as it is), there is no point using burner if it isn’t needed.  Air shows are a time when they do give it plenty of burner, so that is the source of the shots.

The result of this is that there is definitely something unusual about the shock patterns.  I include some shots of F-16 and F/A-18 afterburner plumes and the normal shock patterns that create the hotspots known as the diamonds are very obvious and simple in shape.  For the F-22, things are very different with the patterns of hot zones being something more in line with the shape of the nozzle.  The way in which the patterns repeat is more complex than for an axisymmetric nozzle.  There is nothing much to conclude in these observations.  It is just something that appeals to an old aero guy like me.

Fisher P-75A Eagle

While researching some old images of mine from the experimental hangar at the USAF Museum in Dayton OH (the collection of which has since been moved into a new, custom build display hangar which is far more spacious), I saw some shots of something which, to be honest, I had no idea what it was.  I took a look at the website of the museum to try and identify the type.  It is a Fisher P-75A Eagle.

I did not knew Fisher existed and discovered it was part of General Motors.  The configuration of the aircraft is quite unusual.  The engine is mounted in the middle of the aircraft driving a contra-rotating propeller.  The cockpit is further forward that on other single-engined fighters of the era since there was no space allocated to the engine up front.  The underside includes a pair of inlets.  The airframe is finished in polished metal rather than paint.  Overall, it looks quite impressive.  From what I read, another type was not deemed as necessary so development was terminated and they used the airframes for engine development work.  Funny how I saw it on the visit and took photos and then promptly forgot about it.

Back to Coupeville for a Day Off

NOLF Coupeville was scheduled for FCLP training and strong winds from the Southeast were forecast which suggested the right runway would be in use.  I also had a day off scheduled.  While the rest of the weather was potentially not ideal, I figured I would make the trip.  Why. Not?  They were due to be flying from late morning but, as seems to be usual, it was just after noon by the time things started to look active.

I was worried about the low cloud base but it was actually not a problem.  The wind was really strong gusting 20-30 kts.  This was giving them some interesting flying.  Early on, there was a hint of sun sometimes which really helped the photos.  As they climbed out after each touchdown, the skies behind made from interesting backgrounds and showed off the heat haze from the exhausts as well as the streaming tip vortices courtesy of the damp conditions.

After a while, I got a visit from the Navy Police.  The young lad informed me I wasn’t allowed to photograph the jets. I pointed out I could be he was most insistent that I couldn’t.  Rather than have trouble I decided the stop shooting.  As it happened, the conditions got a bit worse anyway so I had got the best of what was on offer.  I just watched the rest of the flying which included quite a few bolsters and some sketchy touchdowns as the wind got stronger.