The heat haze was a bit of a problem on this day so I was hoping that they would roll out a bit long to get into usable range. They couldn’t have been more obliging. It turned out to be a US Marine Corps KC-130J. They didn’t exit early for the taxiway even though they could have done so with ease but instead rolled all the way to near me before exiting and taxiing back to the ramp in the other direction. This was very kind of them. I got them close enough in to have little in the way of heat haze and to get a decent look at them.
Before the F-16s became the drone target conversion of choice for the USAF, the F-4 was the jet. The contract for conversion was run by Tracor which ultimately ended up being part of BAE Systems at the time I saw these jets. They did the conversion program at Mojave Airport in California. We were a bit of a distance from the ramp where they were parked but it was early in the day and the heat haze was not yet a problem so a long shot was feasible. Looking at these, I think they were both RF-4C jets that had either been converted or were about to be.
Another day, another retro post. I am pleasantly surprised by what I find as I go through old shots since I am not able to get any new shots while we are all self-isolating. In this case it was a visit to Edwards AFB that was a pre-symposium trip ahead of an ISAP meeting. I think Richard was the one that organized it all. Anyway, the Edwards test fleet includes a bunch of F-16s. Some are from the test pilot school and some are test program assets or chase planes. There was also a Danish jet that was supporting the F-35 program.
We got to hang out on the ramp as see the jets under the shelters as well as get up close and personal as they were heading out for a mission and recovering. We later went out to shoot near the runway which was fun but not ideal from a shooting perspective because of heat haze. Who would have thought the Mojave Desert would have heat haze! Still better than a day at work of course.
Here are a bunch of shots from that day. I haven’t been through most of these for ages so it is interesting to see what upgrading them to the latest editing algorithms of Lightroom can do for the processing results. I have yet to find one that doesn’t look better with the new processes applied.
A Boeing F-15SA development airframe has been in the PNW. The F-15SA is a development of the Strike Eagle family specifically for the Royal Saudi Air Force. They are buying new jets as well as updating the F-15S jets they bought years ago. Production jets have been delivered for a while now but testing activities continue. I had heard that a jet was at Boeing Field for a while and had even seen the tails parked on the ramp as I drove by but I hadn’t seen it moving.
Military jets don’t usually show up on the mainstream flight tracking apps (but this one had when it traveled cross country) so I didn’t know it was airborne. However, I heard it call up on approach so stopped what I was doing and grabbed the camera. Sure enough, it came zipping down the approach. A few quick shots and then it was down. Apparently I was rather lucky. A couple of days later it headed back across country.
This P-8 is the first jet for a second batch ordered by the Indian government. I have to admit that I didn’t know that they had ordered more jets. I could tell it was different because the earlier jets had ARK written on the fin and this one has DAB. Maybe that is a squadron thing? The P-8I for the Indians has a number of changes from the USN standard of jet. It has a different radar mounted on the fuselage and also includes a MAD which was not part of the USN spec. Here are some shots of the two jets to show the differences between them.
I mentioned the arrival of some USAF T-38s in this post. They weren’t alone, though. Boeing had both of their T-38 chase jets out on missions and they had to come back at some point. The day had lovely weather so I was going to wait around and get on with some work to see when they showed up. The jets have similar paint schemes but are slightly different in detail. I had shot one of them in nice conditions once so was keen to do better. I got both of them as they returned so finally felt like I had some success.
I wonder how long they will last. Since Boeing has won the contest to replace the T-38 in USAF service, I wonder whether the early T-7 jets they built will find their way to Boeing Field at some point to support flight test activities. They will probably not be a match for production jets so would be of less use for in service test activities. We shall see. The T-33s are still around so the T-38s may have years ahead of them.
The Museum of Flight seems to have two examples of the air launched cruise missile. This is the Boeing developed AGM-86 missile. One of them is hanging from the roof in the main museum complex while the other is in the restoration facility up at Paine Field. I don’t know which versions of the missile they are. Some were nuclear armed (this version remains in service I believe) while others had a conventional warhead (and I read that these were retired recently). The missiles were widely deployed on B-52s and B-1Bs but I understand that only one wing of the B-52 now has them.
This is part one of a two-parter. I was at Boeing Field sitting taking calls and doing emails and keeping an eye out for anything interesting. That included the Boeing chase T-38s but they are going to have their own post. They weren’t the only T-38s though. Three jets from Beale AFB also showed up. I missed the first and got the second as it landed. The third followed a while later. Strangely for Boeing Field (which sits under the SeaTac approach path) it did an overhead join and then broke into the pattern before landing.
The three jets were on the ground for a while and didn’t leave to late in the day. I heard them call up that they were taxiing and decided to try and get down to the other end of the field for the departure. As I drove down, I could hear them on the radio getting ready to go. I knew it was going to be close but sadly, it wasn’t close enough. As I pulled in to the parking area, they took off in formation. They kept it low and the light was gorgeous. It looked great but no photos to prove it. The third jet had taxied out but must have had an issue because it returned to the ramp. Oh well…
The sun was forecast, I had some time to spare and there was even suggestion of southerly winds so I took a day off and headed to Whidbey Island. Coupeville was planned for some FCLP training for the Growlers from Ault Field so I went up to see what I could see. With winter light, the sun is way to the south. It cross the centerline of the runway by late morning and, unfortunately, the first flight to arrive came after this time. They only had one meatball on the field and it was set up at the south end. The wind was southerly but not strong so they clearly decided a small tailwind was easier than dragging the lights to the other end and aligning them. Crap!
I spent some time on the sunny side which is far from the touchdown zone. I shot some stills and some video. The jets only get close when they are well airborne but it was possible to get a few shots that were okay. When they had finished the practice you knew it was the case because the jets cleaned up and powered away. I headed down to the water to have some lunch.
It wasn’t long before I heard the sound of jets again. I saw a couple of them turning over the bay and descending to the field so headed back up. While the light was on the wrong side, I figured I would just try something new since the alternative was just more of what I already had shot. It even was the same jets as the earlier session. I shot some backlit landings near the touchdown zone (and I was not alone – plenty of people stopped their cars to watch). With a bunch of shots and video done, I figured it was time to head home.
My Saturday morning trip to Boeing Field was to see the Gulfstream test jet covered in this post. I wasn’t expecting much else other than the usual traffic but I was very happy when I pulled up early to see three F/A-18D Hornets from the Marine Corps training unit, the Sharpshooters. They were parked on the other side of the field but had people around them and one was already strobing. It looked like they were going flying. All three soon powered up and taxied out.
The taxiway on that side of the field has a kink in it which provides an interesting angle on the jets as they taxi up together. I was wondering how the departures would look since the weather was heavily overcast and a gray jet with a gray sky is not ideal. The first jet got airborne and climbed quickly which was disappointing. However, the number two kept things a lot lower as they gained speed which helped a lot.
About an hour later, I heard them call up on approach. No run in and break at this airfield. The traffic over the top for SeaTac makes that more complicated so it was straight in approaches for all three jets. They did run down a decent distance and then turned off to return to their parking spots. That was a bit of a bonus. I don’t know whether they were flying again later as I had other plans but a launch and recovery was welcome.