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About gary1701

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    Step away from the computer!
  • Birthday 08/23/1969

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    Stowmarket, Suffolk, UK (Neighbour to the AAC Apache AH1).

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  1. Thanks, glad they were okay. I must admit it was easier than I feared. A month or so before I was still considering not making the attempt as I feared it was going to be difficult, if not impossible to get pics of the IDF deployment. As it turned out it went pretty well. Hopefully they'll be back in 2020 - be nice if they brought F-15Is or F-16I's. Gary
  2. Hi Bee, Unlikely to be 48th FW jets. All three squadrons are at home, which is rare. They did fly missions direct from Lakenheath to Libya back in 2011, but there's no indication over here that has happened recently. As I've said previously, we wouldn't publicly monitor that in real time on the web, but the indications would be there and there's been nothing. Lakenheath has actually been closed and stood down for the last couple of days, not due to reopen until middle of next week. It usually goes very quiet in late September as I believe their fuel budget runs October to October and they normally cut back training at this time of year. There is a Seymour-Johnson F-15E squadron deployed and the six month swap over is imminent with them coming home - through Lakenheath - and it should be a Lakenheath squadron next in the rotation, probably the 492nd as the 494th went last time. Be interesting to see if there's any flamboyant art work on the nose of the transiting Seymour-Johnson jets. Gary
  3. Hi again gents, The other day I went back and did some research on this and this was the results. This only covers the jets that were deployed to the UK. F-15Ds 715 (90-0277), 706 (90-0276) and 733 (90-0275) come from the final batch of five new built D models delivered to Israel (and would have been built after the US started F-15E production). F-15D 980 (80-0055) is one of the ex-USAF batch delivered through Lakenheath in September 2016. Having read how much work goes into overhauling and upgrading these airframes, that's pretty quick to see it now operating to IAF standard. F-15Cs 810 (80-0123) and 818 (80-0125) are original IAF airframes. The odd one is C model 583, which carries US serial 83-0067 on the airframe. That's a mistake by the Israelis (83-0067 is a B-1B preserved at Ellesworth!), and the airframe is apparently 83-0062. Whilst I suppose the last one could be deliberate misinformation, what's the point? Hardly seems worth the effort so I would put money on somebody screwing up in the admin department. As one of my posts earlier this year showed with the 100th ARW at Mildenhall putting the wrong serial on a newly repainted KC-135 (since corrected), it happens. Gary
  4. Gents, Open Skies OC-135 arriving early this afternoon from the East. No CFM56's on these! Gary
  5. Hi Bee, Sure. They arrived on Wednesday the 28th August. They flew direct from Israel, three 707's in support, two returned and one came all way through with them, although he has gone back. They've had various transport types in, including a C-130 apparently bringing in a engine or two for some sick jets that departed whilst I was there Thursday morning. They flew six of the seven during Fridays sortie, so they must be in quite good condition for old jets, although one came back with a IFE due to a hydraulics failure early. Some of these are original jets, and some are apparently overhauled ex-USAF D models that were delivered through Lakenheath some years ago - they have been considerably modified since. They carry a USAF style fiscal serial in small type at the bottom of the fin, a list has been made somewhere, but according to the serial experts, they've put the wrong US serials on some of them! I have no idea how some of the guys know this, but if the choice is between military bookkeeping, even the IDF and military serial enthusiasts, I know who I would back... Gary
  6. Hi again gents, This is the big one, the results of yesterday and Thursday up at RAF Waddington in Lincolnshire, although the majority of these were taken yesterday as the weather went bad quite quickly on Thursday. A few words on this exercise, it's normally held a few miles away at RAF Coningsby, one of my other regular haunts but this year all the visiting air arms went to Waddington instead, not sure if this was connected with the sensitive nature of the Israelis or not. Cobra Warrior started out as a RAF/Luftwaffe exercise at Coningsby, last year the Italians joined although they flew from Waddington then. Back in January it was quietly revealed that the Israelis were to participate in the 2019 event, which was a massive shock. Although F-15Is and C-130s attended the now defunct Waddington air show many years ago, this was the first time the Israelis were to operate in a UK exercise. As can be imagined the enthusiast community has been waiting in anticipation ever since, but this was tempered slightly when it was stated that all the visitors would operate from Waddington rather than Coningsby, with RAF assets working from their own bases. Waddington isn't anywhere as near as accessible as Coningsby, despite having a formal viewing area and car park called the WAVE at the Eastern by the main A15 road. This was built when Waddington hosted a lot of visitors for ACMI work off the coast in the 1990's, long since gone and aircraft wise the base has become something of a backwater. Most of the RAF's ISTAR assets are based here, and the security has become a lot less friendly since the RAF RC-135s arrived. Which is strange as the usually less photography friendly USAF at Mildenhall hasn't been bothered about photography of their RC-135s for years, as my pics on here show. So there was some concern as to what would happen, plus throw in some potential protesters as they already don't like Waddington because it is the RAF hub for UAV operations. For obvious reasons the Israeli Air Force isn't that popular with certain protest groups and elements of the media over here so there was some potential for a interesting couple of weeks. This wasn't helped by some of the usual 'outrage' articles in some of the left wing media when they finally found out about it - Morning Star for example. So whilst the idea of photographing Israeli jets had me and most of the community falling over ourselves, there was some worry that you just wouldn't be able to see anything or allowed anywhere near the base with the WAVE closed for the duration. F-15s were confirmed, initially a mix of both F-15I and F-15 'Baz' models, up to a dozen was suggested. A few weeks beforehand the 'I's cancelled so we were down to the 'Baz' model - still good news considering how much the IDF modify them, especially the two-seaters. Advance indications were mixed, the WAVE would be open, but step ladders by the fence and hedge would be banned and policed, although as a concession the hedge would be cut down so you could look over and hopefully photograph. That still allowed pics on the 20 approach which was good. I booked a weeks holiday and hoped that by the second week of the three week exercise any problems would have been resolved although my luck at Waddington in the past has been poor with the weather - Indian Su-30s for example in 2007. The final contingent was as below; 10x Luftwaffe EF-2000's, 4x ITAF EF-2000's, 4x IAF F-15Ds and 3x IAF F-15Cs. One Luftwaffe A310 tanker was working Brize Norton alongside RAF tankers. RAF Typhoons and F-35s would work from Coningsby and Marham respectively. This exercise does not involve the USAF, besides Mildenhall tankers refuelling the IAF F-15s on occasion as obviously they need the boom. The USAF B-2 deployment in at Fairford is not connected to Cobra Warrior. So Thursday was very nearly a total bust, as although they were departing and landing from the East, the better end the predicted afternoon clouds rolled in just before all the various aircraft recovered. Unfortunately, the Israelis had decided that they didn't like coming out on the Southern taxiway just a few feet in front of the hedge by the A15 and the waiting hordes so after a couple of days last week they were always taxiing around to the North side and were distant. Quite a lot of communication had been arranged in advance between the exercise organisers, the WAVE administrators and Israeli security and their main concern was not the jets but that they did not want any images of their personnel that were identifiable, which was obviously understandable. The Southern side taxiway we didn't understand - you can't id a pilot in a jet with helmet and mask on! However that was their call obviously. They had their own security and it was made clear that they had a detachment of security officers in the WAVE watching and reporting back, just like in the spy movies! I suppose you don't get this in Israel but they'd obviously been briefed well in advance as to what to expect. A few from Thursday. RAF Airseeker (RC-135V) coming out of 'Alpha' dispersal early morning. ZZ666 is the third and final airframe allocated to 51 Sqn to replace the old Nimrod R1s. Somebody in the serial allocation office has a sense of history as the three Airseekers are allocated ZZ664 through 6, the original Nimrod R1s were allocated XW664 to 6, although XW666 crashed and was replaced by a MR2 conversion. The Italians had no problem coming out Southside by the fence. 'Ferrari 1 and 2' on the South side hold. Interesting that the Italians don't have the newer 'Striker' helmet. This one shows the four ship of IDF F-15s ('Ace' flight) holding short on the North side behind. Only one of the IDF F-15s turning on as the angle and clutter isn't great, and I shot far better the following day. This shows the ELTA jamming pod carried on the forward CFT station. Returning, only the lead Luftwaffe EF-2000 was caught before the clouds came in - grr! So Thursday ended up being pretty bad, and although Fridays forecast was much better the wind indicated that they would swap ends, not so good as access down the other was a unknown quantity to me, and was only country lanes and fields and when talking to the locals I was told it was either pointless as they don't want you down there (the IDF were on the dispersal on the Southern corner) and it's coned off, or a couple of guys said you can do it if you prepared to walk a far bit ang get around the fields. So I decided to see the morning departures from the WAVE, hoping somebody came across low and played to the cameras - some had the previous week, even a couple of the F-15s had, and then before they came back investigate the 02 end and I had nothing to loose - I was reasonably confident that the IDF security couldn't shoot somebody on UK soil outside the fence! The worst I could see happening was to be told to go away, and that would be the RAF Regiment unit that is stationed here, not the Israelis. First off, one of the diminishing number of operational RAF E-3s for the forthcoming exercise. Originally numbering seven aircraft, one was reduced to a parts hulk some years ago and more recently another two have been withdrawn. Presumably the remainder will serve until the Wedgetail arrives. When I said to some of the locals that at least that leaves four airframes they laughed - apparently the best they can manage is to have two available at any one time! Surprise guest over the top whilst we waited, 'Scalp 99' is the BUFF in at Fairford alongside the B-2s. He's down for a few air show appearances in Europe and had launched for a French show but did a tour of the UK before heading South. He did ask the E-3 if anybody in Cobra Warrior wanted to intercept him! Don't know if they did. Then they all launched towards us but only the single Italian obliged, but it was a perfect angle - well done that man! So I decided to make an effort down the other end, not knowing what to expect. I found the coned off layby, strangely the one the other side of the road was fair game, and there was a lot of empty cars parked there - somebody seems to know where to go. So with camera and step ladder I headed down the track to the fence, found the Israeli dispersal just the other side but there was a bunch of guys there so it seemed okay. Walked further around the edge of the field to the runway and bingo! Found some more guys and also you had a clear elevated view over the runway and taxiway. Couldn't be better and amazed that so few people, including the hundreds down the other end of the WAVE had no idea you could go down here. First the Israelis. I still could not believe, that after all the security arrangements and rules that they would just taxi back across the runway in front of us without any problems, but even though we were watched by a couple of RAF regiment guys, no problem. Some of the others, looks like the Luftwaffe has the same problem with the refuelling probe! You have to hand it the Italians, even their recoveries are tighter, more flamboyant than anybody else, these guys really pulled them round tight. This final shot was taken on my mobile, as I didn't feel comfortable putting my main camera and lens towards the Israeli encampment, although others didn't seem to have a problem! having been in this game for over 30 years now, it never fails to amuse me how security rules and procedures are so contradictory! All the fuss down the well known public end about being close and photographing the Israelis and look at the fence at the other end! I hope this marathon session is okay, but this may well be the only time I ever Israeli aircraft in a operational setting. I imagine they're going to have some strange stories to tell when they go back home. Gary
  7. Hi gents, Here's a quick couple of highlights from my two day jaunt up to RAF Waddington and Exercise Cobra Warrior - including the first ever exercise in the UK involving IDF aircraft. Understandably very security conscious but if the weather co-operates and you get in the right places, it's still doable. Full post to come once I've sorted through 1400 images! Gary
  8. Hi, Very nice. I've just got back from two days up at Waddington earlier this afternoon. Yesterday was a near total bust due to weather but today more than made up for it. Pics to follow. I've got your PM and will get back to you later this evening. I did hear that one day for some reason the Luftwaffe A310 overflew Waddington (was it a day last week?) with the EF-2000s despite the aircraft working out of Brize Norton for the exercise. I reckon it must have been a photo shoot. I'm guessing these were last week as the IAF have pulled the tanks from the F-15's this week? Gary
  9. Hi, Thanks for that. The sunset/dusk shots are something I tend to specialize in at Coningsby because it's quite easy to get around and get the angles when the light and conditions warrant it. Here's a few more that may or may not have been on here in the past. Gary
  10. Hi and yes I do. I vary where I go at Coningsby depending on runway in use and sun angle, but those were all taken from the same location, the fence line at the edge of the field on the South Eastern corner. I'm shooting from the top of a set of step ladders over the fence, in between the top of the fence and the barbed wire. The farmer is okay with people being down here as long as they leave their cars up by the road and walk down, there's a layby that you can use. From that corner you can swing left to the taxiway on the South side with anything coming out of the shelters, swing right and you've got the approach and the end of the runway with the taxiway from the North side, so all bases are covered. They won't give you any trouble here for doing this, I once was up the ladder down at the Western end late one afternoon with the sun setting behind me as they landed from the East and taxied off towards me. The light was fantastic and as they came towards me I heard on the radio clipped to my side a female voice asking the tower that she could see somebody at the end of the runway up a ladder and was it okay! There was only one female Typhoon pilot at the time (Helen Seymour) so I knew who it was but the tower was okay with it so I didn't have a visit from the RAF. This is where I was, down by the Western end of the runway. This was taken during the Saudi/RAF exercise Green Flag in 2013 and it is nowhere near as busy as that on routine days, you'd probably see nobody down here normally. I would only stand here, directly in line with the runway if they were landing from the opposite end towards you, as they were on this day. The reason that the wooden fence has been replaced by a metal fence is that they kept blowing it down! If you stand up a ladder here with them landing over you, you stand a chance of losing you head! The 'golden hour' shots from that day I got 'reported'. Gary
  11. Gents, I missed this selection the other week when I did Wattisham families day and the Saturday morning Mildenhall run. On the Friday (my 50th as well!) and with Lakenheath closed for the bank holiday weekend I decided to go up to Lincolnshire and visit the RAF Typhoon base at Coningsby. It's one of the easiest bases to visit, with easy access all around the perimeter, but with the loss of Tornados and the removal of the majority of squadron markings from the Typhoons it's become a rather boring place to visit, unless there's something visiting. That wasn't the case on this Friday morning so here's a few pretty standard pics. Flight from 41 Sqn, the trials unit coming out from the North side. The training (29 Sqn) and trials unit are on the North, the two frontline outfits (3 and 11) are on the South. Because 41 generally do not deploy operationally (they do go to the US annually for training), they are able to hang onto their sqn markings. Twin stick Typhoons are now a rare breed, as the RAF have scrapped for parts all the early Tranche 1 two-seaters. Recently there was a bunch of parts, including a set of fore planes on Ebay! There's a few twin sticks in the Tranche 2 batch, including this one, but conversion training has moved to the single seaters. To me it's the short term thinking yet again, as the aircraft could still have been used single seat and by spreading the hours the single seat fleet would last longer. I don't doubt that in 15 to 20 years or so the Typhoon will end up in the same situation as we had with the Tornado's - the most capable variant in service compared to the other operators, but axed earlier because the airframes are knackered. Out of the South side HAS site. This is one of the new Tranche 3 airframes. They have a small mod that differentiates them from Tranche 1/2. There is a small raised 'blister' on the upper rear fuselage directly in front of the fin. This is a attachment point for CFT's, if they are ever funded and deployed. of which the RAF currently have no plans to do so! Surprisingly, this Tranche 3 airframe carries full 11 Sqn markings. Standard Typhoon departures do not involve reheat/afterburner, occasionally the crews will call for a 'performance' departure. Nearly! It was Friday on a bank holiday weekend, so I didn't expect these guys to be out for long, in fact the base was NOTAMed to be closed by 12:30 local. So much for that idea, a Voyager was off the coast so all the flights went and tanked and stayed out for between 2 to 3 hours, frustrating as it was hot and there's no cover where I was waiting! They even got a extension to the NOTAM - so much for the RAF reputation of Friday afternoons... When they did come back, this guy had a jammed AAR probe, although he did several radar approaches so wasn't considered serious. Common fault on Typhoons that. Gary
  12. Hi again Bee. Your question above concerns something that I meant to cover on my long post above but was out of time last night as I was up against the clock. The short answer is no the US military could not if using UK facilities, but the genuine enthusiast community is quite self regulating when it comes to circumstances like these. I'll explain. In the old days prior to Internet, mobile phones, social media...etc...and using Libya 1986 as an example it was difficult for the word to spread in real time because the technology wasn't there. You still had the same level of interest (arguably more than now given how much more activity there was), but although enthusiasts and photographers were out at the fences of Mildenhall/Lakenheath during the raid, they didn't have the tools to spread information. In the run up to that raid the locals knew something was happening as half the USAF KC-10 fleet deployed to Mildenhall and Lakenheath ran through an intense work up and then a stand down from flying for preparation a day or so before the actual raid. If you were familiar with how they operate, those indications are impossible to hide. Nowadays it's different obviously, as with all the tools previously mentioned, it becomes difficult, and in the case of operations from UK bases, pretty much impossible to conceal. That's where the responsible and knowledgeable enthusiasts themselves know what to comment on and what not to. For example, the main UK source for information gathering and posting is a forum called Fighter Control. It's a very active and busy forum, I've been a active member for years. The vast majority of the site - general discussion, pictures, they have a sub-forum for each and every base in the UK - all that is freely available to any guest or member viewing the site. However, the sub-section that covers real time aircraft movements, exercise info, NOTAMS, UK, US and globally is hidden unless you are a member and have five forum posts elsewhere to your name. It's done to prevent casual viewers - especially the media when there's a breaking aviation story - from accessing information that is better kept in the serious community to avoid 'misunderstanding' shall we say. Also if there is a ongoing event that public discussion is probably not wise in the interests of security, discussion of that event is banned and removed from the forum by moderators until it's no longer time sensitive. Classic examples would be the bombing sorties flown direct from Lakenheath and Marham during the Libyan war of 2011. Although Tornados and F-15s were deployed closer to the area a small number of sorties were flown direct, with massive tanker support, from the UK bases. They couldn't hide the aircraft departing with live ordnance - assuming you know what to look for - but as soon as it became obvious what was occurring, and it doesn't take long, no discussion or logs were allowed on FC during the length of the operation. It was fair game afterwards, as even Lakenheath itself posted the pics and info on it's social media accounts, but it's off limits during the operation. It was the same when B-1s deployed into Fairford for one of the Middle Eastern operations, can't remember if it was Afghan or Iraq. The fact a certain number of B-1s were there, the aircraft serials was all fine, but as soon as they flew live bombing missions no movement information was allowed. The problem was that the mainstream media didn't care and quite happily filmed and reported bombing sorties departing from the fence as access around Fairford was still quite easy. So without going into a book again, the answer is that it would be pretty much impossible to mount operational sorties from the UK bases without the community knowing what was going on in considerable detail, but the majority of the community is quite responsible and self policing. If you take a sensitive picture (for example, certain aircrew showboating through the Mach loop, or an accident) and sell it to the national press, you won't be popular amongst your peers, and word soon gets around. Obviously, there's always going to be some irresponsible or inexperienced types who don't care what they're doing, so in this scenario it would leak somewhere, especially in the wild west of social media rather than a controlled format such as a forum like FC. Hope that helps a bit more. Gary
  13. Hi Bee, That's a very good question and I had to think a little before answering it as over here what we see and hear is kind of taken for granted. To take the questions directly, it's not US specific, any and all military flights in and around the UK are pretty much monitored by the enthusiast community. Outside the UK services, US types would obviously be the next most common to be seen and photographed purely because of the numbers and bases here. The current Cobra Warrior exercise being hosted by the RAF up in Lincolnshire starting today has German and Italian EF-2000's and a first ever UK appearance by the Israeli Air Force in an exercise in this country - F-15 'Baz' x7 for the next three weeks. The IDF crews have found out today what that means - hundreds of photographers on the fence! They would have been forewarned as they're attendance was known about months ago. The information comes from various sources. Obviously radios, the small hand held sets similar to mine, but also your serious amateur radio enthusiasts that can monitor comms thousands of miles away. The ability to track the transponder codes and the international sharing of that information means that flights can be tracked in real time via a mobile or PC. I often use one on my phone if I'm at a base to give me an extended heads up. The other Friday I was at the RAF Typhoon base of Coningsby waiting for a flight to come back before they packed up for the weekend and I watched them on the screen go to the tanker over the North Sea, then head up North to Yorkshire for some low level work, then back to the tanker, then down South to Norfolk for a FAC exercise at the training area down. After three hours I was getting rather frustrated! The point though is that with these tools you can build up a picture of what is going on if you are familiar with how they operate. About a week ago three B-2s deployed to the UK at night, going to Fairford and they were known to be coming when still tanking in US airspace, hours before getting this side. Combination of the above tools, the officially published NOTAM information that is available publicly and the locals down at Fairford 'knowing' a deployment was due! You put all that together and it's hard to hide something as complex as military aircraft movements. When Lakenheath or another UK/US base hosts aircraft somebody always seems to know, not sure how but many serious UK enthusiasts spend a lot of time in the US and locals to Mildenhall/Lakenheath always seem to have a network of contacts that they can approach for info. I don't see a problem with normal routine/training operations being observed or photographed, as there's little or nothing there to give away. The fleet sizes and aircraft external configurations are pretty much public info anyway. Obviously different nations have different standards, what is considered normal in the UK or the Netherlands (two very aviation enthusiast orientated nations) would not be allowable in the US or Israel, even though frontline types from both nations can freely be photographed close up here in the UK at the moment. What I would expect to be quite closely guarded is operating tactics and capabilities that can not be gauged by somebody watching from the fence. The USAF has exercised it's abilities to keep deployments concealed if it chooses to in recent times - the first F-35A deployment to Lakenheath in Easter 2017. What became public after the deployment was that it also contained a security exercise in the build up and planning to see if they could keep it from the public prior to the jets arriving and the press release. They largely succeeded so it does show that they can keep it quiet if they choose to do so but with most routine deployments and exercises there is no need. That Easter weekend we only knew they were coming to a location in Europe on the Friday evening with a DoD press release saying that F-35s would deploy to a European location that weekend - where and exactly when was not released. Saturday morning I woke up to find that two flights of F-35s were outbound Hill and on the way, with the comms, especially when refuelling being the main give away. I went over to Lakenheath still not knowing that they were going there, just speculation but got there to find that the base had opened up and was expecting them. The pics when they arrived were posted here but it did show that they can keep it quiet until quite late if desired. That'll cover it for now as I gotta go, link below from somebody else showing the shots from the first day of the Israeli/German/Italian exercise. I bet that was a eye opener for the IDF crews. I do have plans to get up there next week though. https://www.flickr.com/photos/157906543@N04/ Gary
  14. Thanks for that. I find it quite interesting that I can post a pic on here and find somebody has flown on a particular airframe that I have photographed. I was a little disappointed that I wasn't there when he left as he left on the bank holiday Monday as he went right up to the underrun on 11 and turned - would have made for some fantastic close up images as he would have been about 50 feet away! Gary
  15. Gents, I haven't updated this long running thread for months because I haven't been over here since March. That changed this morning although I wasn't planning on making the trip after two days in a row out with the camera. Unfortunately, well fortunately I suppose word went out this morning that a E-4 was due in at Mildenhall as part of the presidents visit to the G7 in France. I haven't seen or photographed one of those for over 25 years so it was grab gear and make a straight run over as I had less than two hours lead time. Got to the field at the end of runway 11 to find it filling up nicely - for something like this word would soon get around. Nice early bonus was RC-135S 'Cobra Ball' coming back from a marathon mission, having departed around 19:30 last night and having emptied two tankers. Nice to get the right side with the black painted wing and engines. 'Edge 99' the E-4, was filed from Wright-Patterson to Mildenhall and was clearly running late, but soon showed up on the various flight tracking sites coming in over Ireland. Nice blue skies on a white aircraft... It brought a few spectators in... Heat hazed I know, but a quickie shot through the fence as it taxied onto the AMC terminal and parked beside what is now a long term resident - a very broken B-52. This is the one that diverted in on June 17th with a engine fire during a long distance mission to Europe direct from Minot on that day. Nobody knows when it will be fixed but they have supposedly had the engines off. Although NOTAMed closed this bank holiday weekend, Mildenhall also had two USMC MV-22s come in for a quick fuel stop yesterday afternoon as I was driving back from Coningsby. If they'd been 30 minutes later I could have got them as well. Mildenhall needs to close for holidays more often... Gary
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