Tag Archives: fighter

I Guess More Harriers Were in My Future

During the trip with Mark, we made the excursion to El Centro to catch the Harriers.  As I wrote in the post about those airframes, I thought it might be the last time I got to photograph Harriers.  Turns out, I was a bit premature.  With an exercise planned up in Alaska, the Marines were planning on taking ten jets to participate.  Their routing staged through Boeing Field.  The plan was for two sets of five jets to come across.

The moves were not entirely smooth.  Bad weather in our area was not ideal, tanker support was not working to plan and then you get the occasional jet that breaks.  However, we did get most of the jets showing up.  The first bunch showed up at Boeing Field from the north.  They were strung out on the approach but, from certain angles, you could see all of them stretched out over Seattle.  One by one they came in and reminded us how loud a Harrier is in STOVL mode.

There was due to be the second wave later in the day, but they ended up showing up on another day.  We had departures of the initial jets as well.  When they called up for departure, they asked the tower to line up on both runways.  This would have put them up at the north and away from where I was.  This was a bad development.  Fortunately, the tower informed them that they were too heavy for the short runway’s surface rating.

Instead, they lined up on the main runway spread out in a line.  They powered up simultaneously and released brakes at the same time.  The northern jet had no problem getting airborne in such a short space because of the STOVL capabilities of the Harrier.  The jets further back were also airborne quickly and accelerating rapidly while still over the field.  They climbed out in a loose line which meant assembling the formation would be a simple process.  What a great thing to see one more time.  Is that it for me and Harriers????

Mix of F-16s in Tucson

Every once in a while, the Air Force moves airframes around between units.  One may have exhausted the limits on their airframes and they need to be retired or it could just be a balancing exercise to spread the usage types across the larger fleet.  The Arizona Air National Guard unit at Tucson has recently received a bunch of different (calling them new would be a stretch) jets that have come from various units around the country.  They will be marked up with the AZ tail code in due course but, at the time of my visit, they were still carrying markings from a bunch of other bases.  Getting a diverse range of tails before they all became the same was the challenge while there.  Here are some of the results.

Luke F-35s

I have never photographed at Luke AFB before.  Mark and I spent a few hours there as part of our trip.  The base is home to the F-35A training unit and a variety of foreign F-35A training too.  Plenty of USAF F-35s were in the pattern that day.  I got loads of shots of the based jets but, with the current style of low observability finishes, the jets did look very alike.  Yes, there were crew names and unit badges to be seen but, sadly, one Luke F-35 looks a lot like another Luke F-35.

My First Sighting of F-16Vs

The designation of the F-16V is one that leaves me a bit confused.  There are A model jets that are upgraded to this standard, but I thought some new build jets were also having the designation.  Maybe I am mistaken about that.  I also see two-seaters upgraded to the standard so an A or a B model can now be a V model?  Anyway, enough about that. I got to see some.

Taiwan has been upgrading its fleet of A and B model F-16s to V models.  The program is nearly complete from what I have read.  They operate a number of the jets from the Guard base in Tucson at the international airport.  While Mark and I were there, we got to see a bunch of them launch and recover.  This included one with special markings in the fin.  The markings are otherwise not too conspicuous but, because they are early model jets, the lack of the bulged fin root with its antenna is the thing that allowed me to identify them.  Must be some life left in those airframes despite their age!

Gripen Two Ship Departure

Flashback to RIAT and 2019.  I was working through the catalog looking for something for another project and came across these shots of Swedish Gripens departing from RAF Fairford after the show had concluded.  A section departure is always more interesting than a singleton even if it does give you something to think about when deciding on which plane to focus on.  The Gripen is a great looking jet and one that has been pretty successful given that it was built specifically for Swedish needs.  Always happy to get to shoot one.

The Harriers Really Are Here

While Mark and I were in Arizona, we were talking about the sighting of Harriers down at El Centro.  Harriers are getting pretty rare these days and the Marines only operate them on the east coast at this point.  A detachment to this side of the country is of interest!  We debated the merits of a drive across to El Centro and decided to go for it.  We left Tucson mid morning and got to El Centro in early afternoon.  A quick drive around the south of the base saw one Harrier out in the open.  We could hear it too but, before too long, all had gone quiet – at least as far as Harriers are concerned.

As the day wore on, we were beginning to wonder whether we had been mistaken or just unlucky when a call came up on the radio of what sounded like a Harrier call sign.  A flight of four.  The daylight was beginning to get a little thin, so it was quite late to be going out but, since they have night attack avionics, no reason for them to be limited to daylight only.  Sure enough, we soon see a four ship of Harriers taxiing to the departure end.

The four of them launch in stream and, while they didn’t turn towards us when we would have liked them to, they did keep it low enough to get some nice shots.  One of the jets even had some color.  With them off, we decided to head around to the other side of the base to hopefully get their return.  Not long after we got there, one appeared overhead and alone venting fuel.  Clearly something was amiss, and it was making an early return.  A long straight in approach was best for them if not us!  Then we waited.  Unfortunately, it became clear that they would not be back before it got dark, so we eventually gave up and started our return journey.

The Return of the F-35As on Veterans’ Day

Quite some time ago, I posted a piece about the take off of some F-35As that were doing a flyover for Veteran’s Day.  What I didn’t cover in that post was that they had to come back!  They actually spent a fair bit of time out around the area as well as doing the flyover so there was some time between departure and arrival.  Originally, I had intended to get some pretty standard side on shots of their return.  However, earlier in the year, I had done the same thing for some other F-35s, and, at the last minute, I had a change of heart.

I rapidly grabbed my stuff and drove around to the approach end of the airfield near Ruby Chow Park.  I decided a head on shot followed by an underside shot would be a better bet.  Conveniently, they decided to do a run in and break rather than a straight in approach, so I was able to get some shot of them in formation as they passed overhead.  Then the approach shots worked out pretty much as I had hoped.  I was glad that I had done something different to my usual.  If there had been more opportunities, I hope I would have tried other ideas too.

FHCAM’s 262

My most recent visit to FHCAM was also my first encounter with their Messerschmidt Me-262.  I knew they had one, but it was never on display when I went previously.  Fortunately, it is now part of the main museum exhibits.  I think the 262 is a very interesting looking design.  Early jets were not always the most elegant shapes but the 262 had a really interesting, blended look to the fuselage and wings.  I was hoping I could find a way to get something that reflected that in my shots.  What I really wanted to do was use the monopod to get some higher angle shots but the museum has strict rules about such stuff so I had to make do with whatever my arms could manage.

The jet is a pretty small airframe.  That generation of planes was not particularly large with a few more specialized exceptions so this shouldn’t be too much of a surprise.  Compared to modern jets, it is tiny.  First generation jet engines were not efficient beasts so it would have worked its way through its fuel load quite rapidly, I imagine.  That assumed that both motors kept running for the whole flight.  I still haven’t seen one of the restored/replica 262s fly, sadly.  I wonder if I shall do that at some point.

RCAF Hornet Tests High ISO Performance

The later stages of the Abbotsford Air Show included a performance by the RCAF CF-188A Hornet.  By the time it was performing, the light was pretty much gone.  The late performance has some benefits in that the burners are more striking against a darker sky, but the RCAF display often ends with a landing with the hook lowered.  I had seen this before at Chino and the same problem as happened there occurred here.  The touchdown point was a long way away from the spectator line, so it was too far away to get a decent shot.

However, there was the rest of the display to go for.  My current cameras seem very able to handle low light conditions.  The focus might be a touch slower or less accurate as the light diminishes but I wasn’t noticing a significant problem.  Also, the high ISO capabilities of current generation cameras are really impressive so shooting in such conditions is not necessarily a problem.  The camera will be able to perform although that won’t compensate for a jet just not looking that good with so little light.  You still have to pick your shots.

The Hornet is a good display jet with the ability to point the nose in different directions rapidly and to pull a decent amount of vapor from the air.  It can turn and it can blast through, so it makes for a good show.  Original generation Hornets are starting to become a rarity.  It won’t be long before the Canadian jets have been replaced by F-35s.  Other operators have already transitioned and more will follow.  Catch the legacy Hornets while you can and, preferably, in interesting lighting conditions.

I Should Just Enjoy the Old Pods

I have seen some pictures recently of Growlers bouncing at Coupeville with the latest jamming pods on the underwing pylons.  I was hoping that the jets I saw from the Rooks might be carrying the new pods.  Instead, they were using the older pods.  At first, I was disappointed by this but then I realized that this was the wrong way to look at things.  The new pods will be around for a long time and the chances are I will see them a lot in the future.  Making sure I have some shots of the older pods on jets as the bounce is something to make the most of before they are gone.  We only miss stuff when it is going away so time to think ahead.