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.
The Royal Saudi Air Force (RSAF) was attending Red Flag 19-2 with some brand new F-15SA jets. These jets had come direct from delivery so had not yet even made it out of the US. I guess they had that new fighter smell. They did fly the first day we were there, despite the strong winds which was a pleasant surprise. They flew along with the rest of the jets on our second day. I have mentioned their slightly strange approach to flex departures before so I won’t go there any further but instead will share what I have of the jets from the two days I was there.
A Royal Saudi AIr Force Boeing F-15SA Strike Eagles turns on to final approach at Nellis AFB NV.
A Royal Saudi AIr Force Boeing F-15SA Strike Eagles turns on to final approach at Nellis AFB NV.
A Royal Saudi AIr Force Boeing F-15SA Strike Eagles on departure from Nellis AFB NV.
We stopped off for a spot of lunch
during our trip to Fir Island. We had a
recommendation in Edison that we took.
As we headed back out after lunch, we were driving across some marshland
when we saw some bald eagles. Pulling
off the road, we watch them swooping across the marsh land. At one point they came right over where we
were standing. An immature eagle was the
one that came closest to us but we got a good look at several of them as they
went looking for their lunch. Obviously
they didn’t try the place we had been too!
Another shot from the Portland Open House of the Redhawks and a gratuitous reference to Top Gun scripts. In this case it wasn’t really a flyby. Instead, the jets were launching off the near runway. They were all doing a nice job of keeping it low on departure and they ended up pulling up as the passed the ramp and the tower. A nice view as they pulled up with a few of them getting some vapor is they climbed out more steeply than the average departure from the airport!
An Oregon ANG Boeing F-15C Eagle takes off from Portland International Airport OR.
The 142FW of the Oregon ANG has operated a number of different types over the years. It was nice to see that the base has preserved some of the jets. As you come through the main gate, the grass area to your left has an F-15A mounted on a pole looking suitably dynamic and reflecting the current jets used by the unit.
A short distance away is a memorial park with two further jets. Both of these are in great condition (the F-15 looked a bit weathered from a distance). There is an F-4C Phantom which is nice but the one I liked the most is an F-101 Voodoo. The Voodoo is a jet I never saw fly. I have seen various examples on the ground over the years but there is something about the lines of the jet I just like. Oh, to have seen them in action.
The open day at the Portland ANG base included a demonstration of missile loading. A jet had been parked out on the ramp for the morning and there was a rack of missiles also on display. Towards the end of the morning, a team started to prep the jet for loading. This was an exercise that had multiple purposes. It was a demonstration for the guests, but it was also a qualification test.
Apparently, the crews are required to carry out a loading drill every 90 days when they are timed and observed in order to maintain their qualifications. Therefore, a pair of observers were there to watch the three-person team do their work. It can’t have been fun to have the public watching and the assessment team overseeing you at the same time. The crew got to it though and they seemed to be diligently following every procedure which is no bad thing when you are potentially dealing with live weapons (not that these examples were in any way live).
The missile configuration was quite a mix. They had six AMRAAMS to load, four on the fuselage and two on the stub pylons. The other two stubs were fitted with an AIM-9M and an AIM-9X. The Sidewinders were loaded by hand but the AMRAAMs are heavier and required the use of a mechanical loader. Prepping the plane before the missiles came close took a while and then the missiles were loaded in sequence with things like fins being added at different times such that some were on before the missile was attached and some were added once it was installed.
Once the whole task was completed, they reversed the process and removed the missiles. There was some choreography involved with getting the loader in place. It is not a subtle piece of machinery, but it could be placed quite accurately. Then there is adjustability in the rotation and position of the missile holders to allow things to be fine-tuned into position. Maneuvering a missile on to the rail or the launcher while not hitting anything else also requires some careful work. It was a most interesting process to watch.
The 142nd FW of the Oregon ANG is based at Portland International airport. They held an open house one Saturday morning and I figured a trip down was worth it. I put together a piece for Global Aviation Resource on the visit which you can see here if you want. The event was aimed at sharing the work the unit does with the local community that is probably well aware of their presence courtesy of the regular launches of F-15s from the runway at the international airport.
They had a couple of the jets for people to take a look at. One was out on the ramp and you could walk around it. Another was in the hangar with an access ladder to the cockpit (devoid of ejection seat, just to be on the safe side). They also had missiles and engines available to look at with people on hand to talk about them. Meanwhile, the unit launched a few waves of jets. They taxied out from the shelters a short distance away and, given the distance to the threshold of the runway, the F-15s were airborne well before they even came in to sight. Fortunately, they did keep them low and fast until they came by our location. Then they pulled up rapidly. Each departure was appreciated by the spectators!
The F-15s based at Portland International Airport are an active bunch. From what I understand, they tend to launch two waves of jets a day, one first thing in the morning and the next around lunchtime. I was there early waiting to pick up some colleagues from a flight. I was sitting in the parking lot waiting for the message that they had landed. I wasn’t even thinking about the Eagles. My camera was in the trunk. Then I heard a noise and rapidly realized what it was.
I was never going to get out of the car, open the trunk, get the camera out and on in time to get the first jet but I was ready for the second and third. It was a cloudy day so not exactly ideal conditions for shooting a gray jet but they were F-15s so who is complaining. After a brief gap, some more jets launched as well and this time I was ready. Just as they cleared me, I got a text from my colleagues saying they were ready to be picked up. What excellent timing.
I got some shots of the Talon Hate jet on a previous visit and posted about it here. On this trip to Nellis, not only was it very active but it managed to come our way whenever it flew. Whether it was views of it flexing on departure or tight approaches to bring it passed us on the speedway, it all seemed to work out well. I love the F-15 anyway but getting this special one was a lot of fun. I’m sure the wingman in the F-15D knows that the single-seater is the one we are looking at but they certainly made a good effort to be in position for us to get some good shots of them too. Here are a few of the two of them including a very nice two-ship run in and break.
The F-15 came onto the scene in the 1970s and it has been a major force ever since. As a kid growing up fascinated with planes, the F-15 and F-14 were two of my favorites. They each had features I loved. One of the cool things about the F-15 for me was the inlets. Big ramp inlets were in vogue at that time. They combined an angled profile with complex ramps and doors to take flows from above Mach 2 down to subsonic speeds to feed the engines. (Interestingly the F-16 went with a simple pitot inlet and could still just about make Mach 2. It used the fuselage to redirect the air into the inlet rather than raking it.) The F-14 inlets were very sharply angled. The F-15 didn’t have such a sharp angle but instead took a different approach. The inlets rotated down towards the approaching air.
This always struck me as a cool feature and whenever I see F-15s now, I am always looking at the angle of the inlets. Since they are often at lower speeds when I get to shoot them, they are at higher angles of attack and this means the inlets are rotated down. McAir’s engineers did a great job of the joint so the top surface doesn’t look too discontinuous. I include a shot of a parked jet to show the difference. Even after all these years, I still get a kick out of this.