Before the F-16s became the drone target conversion of choice for the USAF, the F-4 was the jet. The contract for conversion was run by Tracor which ultimately ended up being part of BAE Systems at the time I saw these jets. They did the conversion program at Mojave Airport in California. We were a bit of a distance from the ramp where they were parked but it was early in the day and the heat haze was not yet a problem so a long shot was feasible. Looking at these, I think they were both RF-4C jets that had either been converted or were about to be.
The taxiway at Hyakuri jinks around the shrine and consequently the towers we were on. This is probably an inconvenience the crews but this didn’t stop them from being friendly. The kids on the tower next to me waved at the crews and always got a wave back. I joined in too and waved whether the kids were there or not. I don’t think I ever failed to get a response!
I was on the wrong tower at Hyakuri when the crews came out on the recce ramp to crew up. Rather than get down and move around and potentially miss it, I accepted that shooting through the trees would have to do. The ground crew did their work efficiently and the flightcrew walked around the jet before jumping in. Soon they were powered up and coming towards us. This was early in the day and the beginning of a fun day out!
Any visit to a base includes time when nothing much is going on. This can be time to take a break, have a snack, text someone an update on how things are going or even nap. Or, you can take panoramas. In the morning the light on the ramp was not ideal. It improved later in the day. Even so, you never know how much stuff is going to be out at any one time so shoot while you can. You can always delete later. Here is a zoomable and pannable pano from Hyakuri.
These Phantoms were taxiing towards me from the ramp and they headed out to depart. As the came along the taxiway, I got a moment as they started to merge from my position and, briefly, there was a moment when one was hidden behind the other with the exception of the wings. For that second I had a Phantom bi-plane in front of me before the effect was gone. I consider this the rare Phantom II/IV!
Japanese jets have a reputation for interesting colors and, while the fighter units were pretty dull gray, the recce jets were far more interesting. Most of the flying jets I saw were in the blue camo scheme and they look very nice. One the first wave I saw, there was also a jet in green and brown camo. Sadly it only flew once and I messed up a bunch of my shots. The other scheme on the ramp was a green and grey scheme that looked a lot like the old German colors. Sadly, it stayed on the ramp the entire time I was there.
I was able to have a day out while in Japan after the work was done and the meetings were complete. I have seen plenty of pictures from Hyakuri and I was keen to get there. Mark had kindly brought me up to date with the latest arrangements for visiting, a rental car was booked and I was all set. Starting out from the center of Tokyo on a Monday morning was surprisingly straightforward and I was soon cruising through the countryside heading to Ibaraki Prefecture.
The weather was a bit overcast. After days of heat and sun, this was a bit of a surprise but it actually worked a bit in my favor. I didn’t have a ladder so switching sides in the afternoon was not going to be too simple. With the clouds, there was far less need to move. However, that was an issue for later. I drove up and, as I got close, I had a Phantom pass over me as it was on final approach. A promising sign.
I got to the towers and got myself settled in. There was plenty of action on the ramp of the recce unit. Soon a couple of jets spooled up and taxied. The came right by me. I was shooting away but there seemed to be a bit of a focus issue. Repressing the AF button brought things back into focus so I kept shooting. Only after they took off did I realize that I had somehow switched to One Shot focus mode. Crap. No doubt most of the take off shots would be out of focus – they were. However, problem fixed and then things were performing as intended.
What followed was a day of Phantom fun. Recce and fighter jets went up in regular waves. They taxied right by and then took off in front of us. What a great way to spend a day. The recce jets would do a straight in approach and landing. Some of the fighter guys were more happy to bash the pattern for a while when returning which added to the fun.
As the afternoon wore on, there was a hint of sun showing through the clouds. Backlight was becoming a bit of an issue but at this point I was staying put until I called it a day. I had the drive back to the city to deal with, rush hour was beckoning and I needed to get the rental car back. I made the most of what was on offer before packing up for the day. The whole trip was so worthwhile. Plenty have been so it was nothing original but it was pure fun. There were also other types flying and they will get their own posts.
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.
In going through my archive recently for a piece for Global Aviation Resource, I was searching through old shots of F-4 Phantoms. I noticed one that I hadn’t recalled taking but that seemed pretty cool. Occasionally jets pull ‘g’ when above you and the angle of the sun makes the vapor project a rainbow. This was one of those moments.
While watching the surfing at Santa Cruz, I wasn’t the only one with a camera. There were quite a few of us shooting from the ground but one person was taking it up a notch – literally. They were flying a Phantom Quadcopter with a GoPro mounted underneath. Phantoms are a hot thing right now. The view that you can get from an elevated position is excellent and the combination of the new quadcopter designs with the lightweight GoPro (and other brand) cameras makes for a very useful tool whether shooting stills or video.
The control system is quite advanced. The system keeps the machine were it is and you demand any change in location. Rather than having to constantly control the machine to stay where you want, it takes the majority of the burden from you. Very helpful if you want to concentrate on what you are filming. I am quite tempted to rent one at some point to give it a try. I have seen them in the wild a couple of times and find them rather impressive. I think it is a little too limited in role for me to think about getting one (although when has that ever held me back?) It would be good to try one first, though.