Shooting at Nellis always requires choices to be made. Aside from determining which end you will go to, there is the question about how far up you will go at the Speedway. Some jets turn very tight, others turn long. Some departing jets flex, some flex more tightly than others. Where to go? Paul and I headed up near Gate 7 to see whether we would do alright. As it happened, quite a few of the jets were flexing right overhead us. This didn’t provide the sort of shots we had originally envisaged but, as it turned out, I was rather pleased with the different look.
I was getting some very head on shots of some of the aggressor F-16s as the turned towards the ranges. There was even a bit of moisture in the air and the vortices over the root extensions were showing up. That angle has a very dynamic look, even though the lighting in that location is not great for such an angle. The other benefit was as they had passed overhead. You got a close look at the top side of the jet from behind as they flew away. It might not have been what we intended but I was rather pleased with the outcome anyway.
Regular visitors to Nellis will know this and can move along. For those that haven’t shot there, Nellis departure routes when taking off from the 03 runways can be one of two things. The jets tend to climb quickly and they are offset from the usual photography location alongside the speedway. You can get shots but they are pretty samey with side on shots of the jets further away or slightly underside shots of the jets coming off 03L.
However, anything that is playing as Red Air tends to take a Flex departure. This involves a break to the left from the normal route with a different heading to take the, to the ranges to deal with the incoming Blue force. The aggressors tend to flex most of the time. The other aircraft that may be augmenting the aggressors might flex too. The nice feature of this is that they break towards you. Then you are playing a guessing game as to how quickly they will break. You pick a spot along the road and hope that they will come your way. Sometimes they will turn tight and catch you out. Other times they will delay a bit and still be far away from you. At their speed, it doesn’t take much to increase the distance from where you are. At least you get more dynamic shots.
Draken International has been acquiring some of the best of the retired A-4 Skyhawks to add to their fleet. Their goal is the provision of tactical training services to air forces. Their jets have come from Israel and New Zealand and they have won a number of contracts. I saw them at Nellis AFB where they were providing support services to the USAF. They had a number of jets there working on Red Flag and weapons school projects.
We didn’t get the best conditions to shoot them. They were departing in the morning in conditions when they were rather backlit. For the recoveries, we were struggling to be in the right place to get them. Overall, I was not too happy with the results. I will be back at some point though. Hopefully I will get a better chance to shoot them. Having missed the media day, I didn’t get to shoot them on base which would have been a lot better. Sadly, the twin seater was lost shortly after my visit. Fortunately, the pilot banged out okay.
An A-4K of Draken International climbs out of Nellis AFB in support of a USAF training mission.
The USAF recently got rid of their squadron of Boeing F-15 Eagle aggressor aircraft. The aggressors have used a combination of F-15 and F-16 aircraft for a while but now they have gone to an all F-16 operation. The aircraft have been redistributed to the other units that operate the type and will gradually lose their aggressor colors as they get repainted.
I thought I would celebrate them with a selection of shots of the F-15s that I have got over time. I wonder whether we shall see them again. It is not unknown for things to change again so we can hope. However, I won’t be putting money on it.
An aggressor Boeing F-15C of the USAF launches from Nellis AFB NV.