Tag Archives: Lightning II

Foreign F-35s

Luke AFB is not just home to a load of USAF F-35s.  It is also the training base for many of the export operators.  They also allocate some of their jets to the unit, so you do have the opportunity to catch a bunch of jets that are not from the USAF.  This includes Italian, Danish, Norwegian and Dutch jets.  Aside from the Danish ones that actually have a tiny bit of color in their national markings, all the jets are low viz.  At least they are slightly different, even if not very conspicuous.

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.

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.

F-35A Snorting it Up at Abbotsford

I saw the USAF F-35A demo at SeaFair in 2022 and it was impressive but, unfortunately, a bit distant over the lake.  Abbotsford in 2023 was my first chance to see the performance closer in and that combined with the evening show to give good lighting conditions.  I was not disappointed.  The demo was a great routine, and it really tore up the skies as the pilot wrung the jet out for our entertainment.  The honking great engine means it is never quiet and, while it might not be as agile as an F-16, there is plenty of control authority for some rapid changes of direction.  The evening light made the airframe look even better.  These are some of my favorite shots from the display.

F-35As Departing for Their Veterans’ Day Flyover

The UW Huskies had a home game during the weekend of during the weekend of Veterans’ Day.  The USAF provided a flyover for the start of the game with a couple of F-35As from Luke AFB making the trip up to Seattle to do the honors.  The sun was a bit erratic on the day of the game, but it wasn’t too bad and the trees around Boeing Field still had a little fall color in them.  Both jets launched for the flyover.

I watched them taxi out from the Modern ramp and head to the departure end.  I knew that they would be airborne well before they got to me, but I was hoping that they would keep it low.  The first of the jets obliged keeping nice and low at least for a while allowing me to get a shot with the ground in the background.  The second jet was a little more eager to climb and it was well skylines by the time it got close to my spot.  They were planning on some time in the local area before the flyover so now it was time to wait.

All Star Flyover Jets But Only Just

The All-Star baseball game was in Seattle this year.  Baseball is not my thing so I wasn’t paying too much attention although I did have a meeting near the stadium and discovered just how much a parking garage will charge on the day of the All-Star game!  However, they did have some USAF F-35As in town for the flyover proceedings.  I was south of the city later in the day and started to head north close to the time when the game was due to start.  I had been hoping that I might get up to Boeing Field for their launch but, as I drove north, I could see the jets pulling off their run over the stadium.

I figured they would recover quickly but headed for the approach end of Boeing Field just in case.  Fortunately, they had taken the scenic route and had been touring around Puget Sound.  I was there in plenty of time for their landings.  One thing that I had not really noticed before about the F-35A is the approach angle of attack that the jet adopts.  The planes seem to have quite a nose high attitude when on approach.  The radome is short so the field of view is probably not a problem, but I was surprised I had not spotted this previously.

I got the jets all landing but they were really a series of repetitive shots of similar looking jets.  Nothing too special but still nice to have a different jet here for a while.

F-35A Demo At Seafair

The F-35’s appearance at Seafair has resulted in a few posts of departures and arrivals at Boeing Field on this blog.  However, I don’t think I have actually shared any shots of the display itself.  I quite enjoyed the demo routine that the USAF had last year.  Unfortunately, the display axis for Seafair is a long way from the shore so the shots were a bit distant.  I also didn’t know the routine and was caught out when flares were dispensed and so didn’t get shots of those that I am happy with.  However, there were a few times when the jet came in close to the shore and I got some closer views.  I do want to see the display at a more conventional location at some point.

The Light Comes Back At The End Of The Day

The weather at Nellis was definitely not playing ball for the majority of my time at Red Flag 22-2.  However, as the recoveries from the afternoon exercise were completing, some of the regular base traffic was getting ready to launch.  Nellis is a bit like Seattle (hear me out) in that, even when the weather is a bit crappy in the afternoon, there is a good chance the light improves later on.  This proved to be the case on my first full day there.

As the later jets were launching, the clouds had cleared up a bit and there was some nice low angle sun to be had on the aircraft as they headed out.  I had gone up past Gate 6 at the Speedway to be in place for any Flex departures and this proved to be a good spot.  Some of the jets turned a little beyond me but gave a better top side view while other turned a bit earlier and were almost heading overhead where I was.  The light was better than anything I had got earlier in the day so it worked for me.

Low and Sporty Lightning II Departure

Speedway departures can be a mixed bag at Nellis.  Flex departures with a pull over the Speedway are the best but it does depend on how high planes have got.  Some climb out quite steeply and are way too high for a good shot by the time that they reach you.  On my most recent Nellis trip, though, we were treated to a few departures by the locals that broke the mold. They got airborne and kept it nice and low as they accelerated towards us before breaking in to the flex departure routing.

The evening light combined with the great angles made for some good shots.  It didn’t hurt that I had a lower shutter speed than usual so got some nice blur of the mountains behind the planes courtesy of them being nice and low.  The Strike Eagles also gave it a go which was nice.

Please Come Back Before Sunset

Some late day departures after the Flag returns included F-15Es, F-35As, L159s and A-4s.  You don’t know how long anyone is scheduled to be out but you find yourself hoping that they will all make it back before the sun sets so you can get some arrival shots in the nicest light available.  Once they are gone, it is a case of watching the time and crossing your fingers.  As it was, we got lucky.  They came back in a steady stream with all of them showing up as the sun was at its best.  Arriving over Cheyenne is not ideal from a sun angle perspective at this time of year but we still got some nice angles.  Some turned tighter while others went wider so we got to try all sorts of angles out to see which picked up what light was remaining.