Tag Archives: nellis afb

Some Nice Flexing

Departures over the Speedway are best when they flex.  The straight out departures are fine but not that exciting and they often get pretty high pretty quickly.  Those jets that flex seem to stay a bit lower and provide a more interesting shot.  The later in the day it is, the better the light on a flexing jet.  If they are doing an evening departure after the Flag participants are back, the conditions can be ideal.

Here is a selection of jets in both good and okay lighting.  If a four ship goes out, you hope for the last jet to be more dramatic since it will be playing catch up with the others and shoot turn in a bit tighter.  The fourth Saudi F-15SA was another story though since he went very early and then straightened up before having another go inside us.  Not sure he had been paying attention at the brief!

Brand New F-15SA Jets

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.

Low and Sporty Lightning II Departure

Speedway departures can be a mixed bag at Nellis.  Flex departures with a pull over the Speedway are the best but it does depend on how high planes have got.  Some climb out quite steeply and are way too high for a good shot by the time that they reach you.  On my most recent Nellis trip, though, we were treated to a few departures by the locals that broke the mold. They got airborne and kept it nice and low as they accelerated towards us before breaking in to the flex departure routing.

The evening light combined with the great angles made for some good shots.  It didn’t hurt that I had a lower shutter speed than usual so got some nice blur of the mountains behind the planes courtesy of them being nice and low.  The Strike Eagles also gave it a go which was nice.

Sunset Burner Departures

Fighters departing Nellis are well out of burner by the time they get anywhere near you outside the base.  However, if you are shooting in low light, the burners can show up quite well even though you are a long way off.  The plane is a small part of the overall shot but the intensity of the burner plume can make it far more conspicuous in the shot than would otherwise be the case.

E-8C JSTARS

E-8 JSTARS are not a rare thing at Red Flag but they do often get involved in the night sorties.  Seeing one heading out to play for the daytime activities was a pleasant surprise.  On their return on the first day they were following in the KDC-10 that I mentioned in a previous post.  They also adopted some sporty approach techniques and were similarly unsuccessful in converting them in to a landing.  The go around ensued and was followed by a more conventional straight in approach and landing.

Please Come Back Before Sunset

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.

Dutch KDC-10

There were two tankers I was hoping to shoot at Red Flag.  One was the Colombian 767.  It didn’t fly on the first day but on the second it started to taxi before returning to the ramp and shutting down.  Never mind.  The other was the Dutch KDC-10.  I hadn’t shot one before and they are not likely to be in service for too much longer so this might have been my last chance.  Therefore, I hoped it would fly and it didn’t let me down.

The winds were strong on the first day and it departed towards us off 21L.  As soon as it was airborne, the nose cocked into the strong crosswind and it turned towards us.  A right turn overhead and it was on its way to the ranges.  When it returned, they went for a very impressive curving approach.  It looked great.  However, it wasn’t great from a flying perspective and a go around followed.  The second approach was more conventional and more successful.

On the second day they flew again.  This time the arrivals were from over the Speedway so a more traditional view of them coming in.  I was hoping for a go around and a tight circuit to land but that was a tad optimistic.  Maybe after the previous day they were more content to get the beast back on the ground.

The Growlers Must Be Shy

I have shot at quite a few Red Flags both on and off base.  On base of get such good access that you don’t see anything to make you think that the participants are camera shy.  However, off base I have become rather suspicious of the Growler community.  When you see something strange once, you figure it must be an oddity but, when you see something repeat, you start to think there is a pattern.  When you tell your friend that something happens and then they do it again for both of you, you really think something is going on.

The E/A-18G Growlers fly in a way that makes me think they are trying to be difficult for photographers. (Either that or they think they are doing something to help but are actually making it worse!).  During arrivals the Growlers often go left but, when they go right, they either fly incredibly tight patterns or they go so long as to make all shots rather dull.  However, it is on departure that I have got most suspicious.  When they come off the left runway heading towards us, they seem to sidestep to the left and then straighten up after a while.  This puts them almost directly overhead the awaiting photographers.  You get an underside shot but nothing more.  Not a great shot but you start wondering what you are missing from the profile or above that might be more interesting.  I am probably paranoid but I do see a pattern developing.

Burner Love – Back of the B-1

I’ve already shown the B-1s at Red Flag some love but here is a bit more about them because, well, why not?  The four afterburning engines produce a lot of noise, light and, I guess, thrust.  For a few of the departures, I focused the camera on the back end to try and show that energetic output.  Daylight is not the best time to show up the afterburner plume – night works well for that as does being more directly behind the jet – but it still is possible to see the jet against the dark airframe.  This is just something so impressive to see.

Dormant Centerline Jammer

The Growlers use the same jamming pod that came from the Prowler.  A new jamming system is in development but, for now, the ALQ-99 is the system that they have and the pods are the same pods.  The jamming power comes from a generator that is powered by a turbine mounted on the front of the pod.  As the jet flies along, the turbine spins in the airflow and provides the “juice” to power the electronics within.  Even at relatively low speeds the turbine gets rotating.  However, when the jets come in to land, if they have a centerline pod, the turbine is not moving.  I don’t know whether the blockage from the nose gear doors is enough to stop it or whether it is deliberately switched off.  However, the turbine blades are feathered and it is not moving.  Compare the wing mounted pods and the motion and blade angle is clearly different.