The 173FW at Klamath Falls has flown a variety of types over the year. One of the advantages of the base being open for Sentry Eagle 2022 was the chance to check out the preserved examples that they have. There is a central avenue on base that is the location of an F-4, an F-15 and an F-16. They are mounted on poles and in the colors of the unit. The lighting can be a bit tricky depending on the time of day but there are ways of making the most of what you can get.
Each plane is set up in a dynamic pose as is appropriate for a fighter aircraft. They are well looked after and there aren’t too many items on them that you would want removed, like spikes to deter birds from landing. I was surprised how few of the visitors to the event actually came to check them out as they weren’t far from the main route to the ramp but it certainly made it easier trying to get some shots.
On the morning after our arrival in Klamath Falls, we headed out to a location that was hopefully good for getting shots of jets departing to the north in the morning. What we hadn’t counted on was that the based aircraft would be practicing their display for the air show the following day just after we got there. This was a four ship display that involved some sporty departures and then beating up the airfield from various directions and in various combinations.
They launched four F-15s in stream. The first jet up was the specially painted aircraft that the unit has had for a while but which I had not seen previously. It was joined by two more single seaters in unit markings and the last of the four was an F-15D that wasn’t carrying any unit markings. They would keep it really low after getting airborne and then cross the fence at speed and with burner locked in.
Then they would each pull hard to the vertical and blast upwards. The first one caught me off guard a bit – not ideal since this was the special paint jet. It turned out I got some shots of it, even though I found myself, twisting awkwardly to try and keep it in view. The others I had a slightly better idea about and was ready to track them as they went.
This was just the beginning of our day at Klamath Falls and it was indicative of what was to be a top time.
It was recently announced that Nellis AFB has ended operations of the F-15C/D Eagles. The Eagles have been at Nellis since the 1970s so this ends a long association. The Strike Eagles are still based there and there will, no doubt, be F-15EX jets based there in the not too distant future but this was still noteworthy within the aviation community. I have shot a bunch of based Eagles over the years including the aggressor jets. They went a while back so I won’t include them here but here are a few of the Nellis jets over the years.
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.