Red Flag 16-4 was a bit unusual in that tanker support was not what you normally see. No KC-135s were taking part. The Israeli Air Force had brought some 707s for tanking there jets. The rest of the tankers were KC-130s. An MC-130J showed up although I don’t know whether it was part of the exercise or just there coincidentally. The Spanish Air Force brought their KC-130s to support the Hornets. Seeing a camouflaged Herc is a nice change given how most of them are monotone these days. It doesn’t hurt that, since tankers tend to recover late, they came back as the light was getting very nice.
It has been a long time since I last saw some Spanish Air Force Hornets so I was glad to see them at Red Flag. They may not look very different to the Navy and Marine Hornets but still, some variety is worth it. It was the second week of the exercise so I would have expected everyone to be pretty familiar with the operations around the pattern. However, the Spanish guys seemed to have some different ideas.
They were certainly interested in keeping the patterns tight. I don’t know whether they convert to type with the Navy and are trained to fly tight or whether that is just their nature. However, on one occasion, the pilot came way inside the downwind line while another jet was flying that line and he was going to end up cutting them off. I guess he realized at the last moment because he turned left to get back out where he should have been. A bit strange to watch!
When the Canadian Hornets first came into service, they introduced the fake canopy on the underside of the front fuselage. This was a painted outline of the canopy. The idea was that, on the heat of a dogfight, the opposing pilot might be confused about the orientation of the jet and think it was coming towards him rather than away as a result of seeing this canopy.
The US Hornets never had this on the fleet jets but it appears that the Spanish Air Force has adopted it for theirs (although not all of the jets are so painted). I heard a rumor that the Canadians have some rights on this and other users have to pay for it but I have no idea whether there is any truth to this or not. However, their jets certainly do have the canopies painted on the fuselage.