Some late day departures after the Flag returns included F-15Es, F-35As, L159s and A-4s. You don’t know how long anyone is scheduled to be out but you find yourself hoping that they will all make it back before the sun sets so you can get some arrival shots in the nicest light available. Once they are gone, it is a case of watching the time and crossing your fingers. As it was, we got lucky. They came back in a steady stream with all of them showing up as the sun was at its best. Arriving over Cheyenne is not ideal from a sun angle perspective at this time of year but we still got some nice angles. Some turned tighter while others went wider so we got to try all sorts of angles out to see which picked up what light was remaining.
My previous effort at photographing the Draken A-4s at Red Flag had not gone well. I got shots of them but the conditions were far from ideal. I had hoped for better and been a bit frustrated. When I went back for Red Flag 17-1, the Draken team had become fully integrated into the aggressor program and were launching on all of the missions we saw. I was optimistic about getting some better shots. However, while the first day was a cracking day for us. One disappointment was that the A-4s went left and away from us on recovery.
Launch was a bit better. I had some close encounters with the jets as they flexed towards us during the departures. However, launch does not give great light so, while the angles were good, the shots were t as good as I would have liked. Our second day did better on the recoveries though. Some of the A-4s came our way and we got some good angles on their turn to final approach. I was a happy boy. The light had finally been good and the angles were nice. Hurrah! The special jet or a two seater would have been even better but I am not complaining. I got both the Kiwi jets and the Israeli jets so it went well.
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.