The first time I ever heard of the Kaman Seasprite was in the 1980s when Airfix released a new kit of the SH-2F variant. I thought it was a cool looking model but I wasn’t very aware of what it was used for. It was already getting towards the end of its time in service with the US Navy with the SH-60B Seahawk becoming the platform for shipboard helicopters. A few export programs went forward but these were not particularly successful.
I am not sure whether I have ever seen a Seasprite for real prior to visiting Evergreen at McMinnville. They have a corner that is stacked with helicopters. A Seasprite is one of the collection and I was pleasantly surprised to see it. Given the number of airframes they have in this corner, everything is jammed together. This made it hard to get a nice angle on the Seasprite but I was able to get a few shots anyway.
P-3 hunting was part of the plan when Paul and I headed to NAS Whidbey Island. We had some success. There was a nice bit of icing on the cake for us. An EP-3E showed up too. The EP-3 has a nice selection of large radomes added to the airframe to cover the wide variety of sensors that this type has to fulfill its role of listening to transmissions around the world. I don’t know how long the EP-3 has once the P-3s are gone from fleet service so getting one was a definite plus.
The US Navy brought a couple of E/A-18G Growlers from Whidbey Island to the open day at Paine Field. The pair showed up in the morning and were parked up on the ramp at Heritage Flight Museum before they left later in the day. We got a good look at them as they landed and departed. Hopes of a nice low approach and go around were sadly not fulfilled but it was still cool to see them visiting.
The USS Constellation is the last sail powered warship built for the US Navy. She is now preserved in the harbor in Baltimore. I saw her a few times from a distance while I was in Baltimore but I didn’t get a chance to take a shot until I was walking back from a reception. By that time it was dark and, since I only had my phone with me, that had to suffice. The phone on the camera has a wide angle lens so, even though we were quite close, the ship is a little small in the original shot. However, she still looks pretty impressive. I imagine she would have looked even better when under sail!
I have mentioned the LCS ship that was part of the Parade of Ships for Fleet Week. It was one of several warships to take part in the parade. Most were US Navy ships but there was also a Coast Guard ship and a visitor from the Royal Canadian Navy. They entered the bay under the Golden Gate Bridge before parading in front of the spectators arrayed along the shore and in the boats out on the water. The first ship was led by a fire boat that sprayed water from its cannons in greeting.
These pictures are a sample of the different ships that were on parade. Another warship was part of Fleet Week but it remained tied up during the parade which was a shame as I would liked to have seen it. You could tour it if you wanted but I had other plans that meant that wouldn’t work out.
As a small boy, my Gran would take me to Portsmouth each August for Navy Day. We would spend a day walking around the dockyard and getting on to various warships to see what they were like. This was a pretty big event and, in those days, the number of ships in port for those days is probably more than the Royal Navy has in total today. The result of this was an interest in an early day with warships. Growing up by the water meant that ships of all types were a regular feature of life.
Warship design underwent quite a transition. Traditionally, warships had been slender designs that achieved speed and supposedly provided the most stable ride. However, this was not an approach that was universally agreed and shorter broader designs started to gain favor. The Royal Navy’s Type 23 frigates were one of the first signs that Navy’s were taking new configurations seriously.
The US Navy’s Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) program has gone a stage further with one of the builders. There are two LCS designs in production and one of them has a narrow center hull and two additional outboard hulls further aft. This trimaran configuration provides slender hulls but with a lot of stability and the space for a large deck. One of the LCS ships was in San Francisco for Fleet Week and took part in the Parade of Ships.
USS Coronado (LCS-4) was the ship on display. She is the second of the General Dynamics – Bath Iron Works ships to be commissioned and entered service in 2014. As she entered the bay under the bridge she turned towards to city and you could get a good view (albeit at some distance) of the unusual hull shape. As she got closer, the view was more abeam the ship but you could still see the layout of the armaments. As she headed away, a view of the stern hinted at the hull layout but really emphasized the width of the deck.
The US Navy is currently reconsidering its needs and is looking for a frigate that is more heavily armed than the LCS designs but makes as much use of the hull designs as possible. We shall see how that all works out. In the meantime, this is one of the more unusual shapes afloat. The Zumwalt destroyer is even more unusual so I shall have to try and see that at some point too.
A few years ago I was on a visit to NAS Fallon. As part of the visit we headed to the hangar used by the local search and rescue unit. They were just in the process of transitioning from the Huey to the Seahawk airframe. The Huey had been painted in a bright white and orange scheme and there was some discussion as to whether the Seahawk would get the same treatment. Would it get to look like Nemo. The thought was that low viz would end up being the rule.
At the time, their new Seahawk was in a hybrid scheme. We were pleased to see it since it was thought it might not last. As it has turned out, they have adopted some far more vibrant colors on the airframes since according to the images I have seen online. Hopefully I will get up there again some time to see what they look like now.
When the daylight flying activities are over, there is still the night and Red Flag has a night mission that is flown on most days. Therefore, after dinner, you can head up to a spot north of the speedway where there is a great view over the base with Las Vegas in the background. It is dark up there so there are not many good chances for shooting the jets but you can sometimes get some shots of stuff flying over if it lights itself up.
However, you can get some shots of the base with the launching jets showing up either from their afterburners or from the heat distortion they leave behind.
The other thing is to run a time lapse and see the jets moving around on the base and then streaking off into the sky. I ran a couple of them over two nights. Below is the result of one of them. Two things to note. First, the launch was very spread out. The main jet launch was actually quite late and I was tired and cold so cut short the sequence while they were still heading out. The second is that a weird optical effect shows up in the video. It is a movement of the image a bit like heat haze. However, since the shots are taken over such a long period of time, you would think that would not be an issue. Something is going on though so if anyone has any suggestions, feel free to comment with your thoughts.
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.
One of the benefits of the blog being relatively new is that I have the opportunity to dig up stuff from the past and turn it into a post. I will shortly be heading to El Centro in California for a shoot at the Navy base there. Last year I made a similar trip and I thought I would remind myself and prime you for some of what might be there.
What will show up on a given day is hard to predict. Last time we had some T-45s that had made the trip across from Meridian TX. Whether there will be any this time, we shall see. Hornets may drop in from other bases to use the facilities and last time some Canadian Hornets were in to use the ranges.
It is the luck of the draw what you get but one thing you can, hopefully, rely on is the weather. El Centro has sun most days of the year. I have had bad luck at some locations with weather but I am hoping this one will behave.
What might I try differently this time? Last time I used a variety of lenses and positions. The heat haze is a big issue so looking to far back up the approach is problematic. Getting ahead of, beside and behind the touchdown location mixes things up a bit. Getting the aircraft and the hold is also worthwhile and I may spend more time there. I am also going to try and mix in more video this time too.
We shall see how it goes and what I can get off base before and after as well. Wait to see what we get!