Tag Archives: 16-1

B-1Bs on a Mission

AU0E6358.jpgThe B-1B Lancer is a cracking aircraft.  The combination of size and power makes it look epic when it is in action.  A B-1 departure is not something that you will forget in a hurry.  Four large afterburning turbofans will get your attention and it has a very elegant shape to boot.  The variable sweep wings add a little interest too.  At minimum sweep for takeoff and landing, they look a little ungainly given how long the span is.  Put them all the way back and pour on the coals and the jet can really get moving.  Sadly, airshow appearances are few and far between these days so the chance to see vapor clouds forming around the jet are limited.  (I recently went through some old negatives from a UK airshow at which a B-1 made a fast pass in damp conditions.  The shots aren’t great but the effect is cool.)

C59F6056.jpgA couple of B-1s would launch each day as part of the Red Flag 16-1 exercises.    I was lucky enough to have a couple of good opportunities to see then.  When we were out between the runways, the B-1s launched off the right side.  Not ideal for lighting but you aren’t going to complain.  Because they are a large jet, you have to make some choices with lenses as to what you are aiming to get.  A quick swap of bodies can really help.  A long lens is not much use when they are level with you but the cool shot from behind as they climb out benefits from the big glass.

AU0E7668.jpgOn my first day there, the jets returned at the end of the mission as a pair.  Sadly, the clouds had moved in and the conditions were not great for getting a shot.  However, you aren’t going to ignore them.  On the second day when I was at the EOR, we got a good view of the two jets taxiing out and taking off.  The heat haze is a bit of a problem but not so much as to make it something you can avoid shooting.  Operating as a pair, they look more menacing.

C59F6757.jpgOften the B-1s are at the end of the recovery phase.  However, on this day, they came back relatively early.  I was still at the EOR when they broke into the pattern.  They did land on the opposite runway from the one we were at but they are big enough for this to not be a big deal.  A nice bit of mountain in the background certainly helps enhance the shot a little.  What a great looking jet.  I don’t know anyone who isn’t excited when they see one in action.

Back to My Roots with the Typhoons

C59F3875.jpgThe Brits were at Red Flag in numbers too for 16-1. An E-3D Sentry was part of the AWACS fleet while a C-130J Hercules launched each day I was there. Judging by the dust and dirt on the underside, they were landing on rough strips out on the ranges during their missions. However, the thing I was most looking forward to seeing was the Typhoon. The RAF brought eight jets from 3 and 11 Squadrons. Most days six of them launched.

C59F4789.jpgIn my youth, I worked on what was to become the Typhoon in my BAE days. I was an aerodynamicist looking at airframe loading and the possible flight envelope for the first flight. I was not looking forward to the job when I was given it but working on loads turned out to be a great task and taught me a lot about structural limits, flight controls and the process for expanding the flight envelope. A mentor of mine had told me it sounded dull but was very valuable and he was spot on. I guess he is a smart guy because he has gone on to be rather successful in the company!

AU0E8613.jpgBack on topic, the Typhoon is something I am very pleased to have worked on. Getting to see them in action is great. The launches when we were out by the runways were great. When we were by the EOR, we were directly across from the ramp that the Typhoons were using so I managed to see them crewing up for the launch. Then, of course, they had to come right by us as they taxied out. I know it was a long time ago but I can’t help but still have a soft spot for them when I see them in use.

Two Aborts in One Launch

C59F6599.jpgRed Flag missions are two periods of intense activity with an intermediate phase of nothing much. The launch develops in to a steady stream of jets taking off as everyone gets airborne for their phase of the mission. They have been preceded by the tankers and AWACS who are setting up to manage the throughout of the smaller jets. Once everyone is gone, the simulated war is occurring somewhere else. Then, everything starts to come back with a steady stream of the jets breaking overhead and landing before the tankers and AWACS come back at the end.

C59F6489.jpgAfter the majority of the launch, we were at the EOR watching the occasional straggler go out or some based planes fitting in. Then we got a pair of F-15s come back. They flew an approach with one jet on the glide path while the other was clearly shepherding them in. The F-15 landed without incident and the wingman powered away to rejoin the flight. Some fire trucks rolled but everything seemed to be under control.

C59F6499.jpgNot long after we had stopped discussing this, a pair of aggressor F-16s came into view. The same procedure and one landed while the other shadowed them down the approach. With a safe touchdown, power on and back to the battle. Technical issues are not uncommon but I was surprised to get two in close succession. Everyone seems to have handled them appropriately and they appear to have ended without further incident.


ASRAAM Self Portrait

C59F5739.jpgWhile waking along the ramp occupied by the RAAF Hornets, one of the ASRAAM missiles on the wingtip launch rail of an A-model Hornet had its seeker cover removed. It was dangling by a strap and I was going to ask one of the ground crew if we should replace it. Then I got distracted by the seeker itself. It looked pretty cool and was reflecting light in an interesting way. Naturally, when you are near something reflective, the idea of a self-portrait jumps to mind if you are a little self-obsessed so I couldn’t help myself. Many years ago I worked on an ASRAAM seeker development related task using the company Jetstream testbed so I can pretend all of this is a technical interest and not narcissism at all.

The Aussies Are in Town

C59F3347.jpgOne of the things that I was really looking forward to about Red Flag 16-1 was the large Australian contingent that was going to be present. The Aussies were coming with Hornets and Super Hornets as well as a P-3 and an E-7 Wedgetail. They were also tanked across by a KC-30 although that sadly went somewhere else so I didn’t see it while I was there. Another benefit of the Aussies is that they bring some fun to the media panel. Sometimes these can be rather dull affairs and like pulling teeth. Previous RAAF officers have been very chatty and informative. This time was no exception.

C59F4262.jpgI was pleased that the Wedgetail flew on the main media day. They were alternative AWACS resources and whether this was planned or luck I don’t know. I am just glad I got to see it fly. The Hornets have been to previous Red Flags but this was the first exercise for the Super Bugs. They have been deployed on operations, though, judging by the mission markings some jets were carrying.

AU0E8446.jpgI was included in a second day on base when we got to spend some time on the Aussie ramp prior to the launch of the first mission. A team of RAAF personnel escorted us around as we got a chance to check out both generations of Hornet. One of the legacy Hornets was carrying squadron anniversary markings which looked good on it. The team was operating out of a building that they had temporarily adorned with something more personnel. If you don’t immediately get it, say the phrase out loud as a response to the question “Where are you from?”

C59F5748.jpgThe team was also selling a bunch of squadron swag. I am not a collector of this stuff but it looked pretty cool so I was happy to part with some cash for the squadron funds. Then we retired to the EOR for the launch. Of course, that also included both types of Hornet taxiing out past us on their way to the runway. Cheers to all of the team for being so friendly and accommodating.