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 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!
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.
Talon Hate is a program that the Air Force is running involving an infrared sensor mounted in the front of a centerline fuel tank. It is mounted on an F-15 from the operational test unit at Nellis AFB. The first time I saw it, I was walking along the flight line at Nellis. We were shooting with the California ANG unit that was the next space along the line. As we walked past the Talon Hate jet, we were under strict instructions not to photograph it. I was right there but nothing I could do.
During my visit to Red Flag 16-4, the Talon Hate jet flew a couple of times. It flew with a second F-15 each time and sometimes with other jets. The pod is clearly visible on the jet but the other modifications are less conspicuous. There is a satellite communications antenna mounted on the back on the jet. When it turns for final, you can see the antenna mount. I don’t know what the outcome of the program will be but it is cool to see the venerable F-15 still trying out new stuff.
The F-15 has been in service for a long time now. It operates with regular Air Force units, reserve units and Air National Guard units. The Bayou Militia is a unit based at New Orleans in Louisiana. Their tail code is JZ which, if you think about where they are based, makes a lot of sense. I had seen pictures of jets from this unit a lot over the years but I hadn’t seen them for myself. Having them at Red Flag made me a lot happier than makes sense for a unit.
They put a lot of jets up while I was there including flying at odd times of day. They were happy to fly tight approaches when nothing else was in the pattern so I got a lot of chances to see the, in action. I still love the F-15C so it didn’t take much persuasion to get me to watch these guys in action.
Red 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.
After 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.
Not 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.
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.
I was back at Nellis AFB recently for another Red Flag exercise for Global Aviation Resource. Chris Wood and I were there to cover it and the piece we put together can be found at this link. After the last visit to Red Flag when a security issue resulted in all of the media being escorted off base just before the launch, I was hoping for better luck this time. Fortunately, we did pretty well. The launch went well and, while the light was a bit poor for the departures, it got better as the day went on.
Standing between the runways as the aircraft go off each side is pretty cool. We had a lot of USAF assets this time but also some Navy Growlers and RAF Typhoons. An RAF Sentinel was a nice addition – particularly as it was the aircraft with the squadron markings. One unfortunate element was that the launch was earlier than had been scheduled for our visit and the early aircraft off included the B-2s. We were still on the bus when they launched. I managed to get a shot with my phone out of the window but that was it. I do actually quite like the shot so all is not lost.
The feature has many more shots but here are a few to give you an idea of what was there.