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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. Hi Bee, The RAF Chinooks ZH897 to 904 (including ZH899/900 above) were originally part of a batch of 14 that date back to around 2000/1. Six of them were delivered to the then HC2/2A standard and the remaining eight were intended for UK special forces use. But, we screwed it up in a stupid, but very typical UK attempt to save money that ended up costing far more than was ever going to be saved. Rather than buy standard MH-47Es as the US Army was, we decided to put our own UK specific avionics and special forces package on them to save a few pounds - you would have thought the MoD would have learnt from previous attempts 'trying' to save money, but no. The fit was deemed not airworthy and impossible to rectify, so the airframes were quietly stored and forgotten about for several years. Eventually it was decided to completely strip them out and revert them back to the standard line spec, although they kept they're enlarged fuel tanks. Obviously, they did eventually get into RAF service, although I think the government auditors estimated it cost around £500 million just to get them into UK service after purchase. It's widely regarded as one of the worst procurements in UK military service, so it's got some pretty strong competition! As to their current spec, it's quite probable that they have been - again - fitted to a special forces spec as one of the RAF Chinook sqns does operate a dedicated SF flight although I don't know exactly which air frames they use. Certainly here they were used in a regular role as the two were part of a mixed force of four operating together during the exercise, which wasn't a dedicated SF exercise. Hope that helps. my UK Chinook knowledge isn't quite up there when compared to other types I'm afraid. Gary
  2. Gents, A few more pictures from Thursday evening. The UK has just concluded an exercise at the Stamford training area (about 15 miles North of RAF Mildenhall/Lakenheath) called Exercise Talon Hydra. This also involved RAF support helicopters as well as the resident Apaches, all transiting between the exercise area and Wattisham at regular intervals. My work furlough has ended, so I'm back to just grabbing a few hours in the evenings again. A couple of the resident Apaches lifting just inside the fence not that far away. These guys were operating from a FARP rather than the usual distant main apron. Two RAF Pumas lifting for the exercise area. Considering we see Chinooks in here quite often, Pumas are quite rare. Two of the four Chinoooks working the exercise had departed as I arrived, so I expected them back at least once to refuel whilst I still had some light. The first called up on the radio quite quickly so I scooted down to the other end of the field to photo what was a solo as he arrived. Photographing helo's is always problematic as you never can be quite sure where they're going to go, just a deviation from the predicted path by a few feet can make the difference between getting a good angle or not. Luckily the gamble that he would bank on to the approach towards me as he lined up from a North Easterly approach was spot on. Crewman seems a bit curious as to why there's a red car just stopped on a country lane in the middle of nowhere. I think I did get a wave from him once he saw the idiot waving a camera around! Shortly followed by the remaining three at the same angle. I really am not up on the various marks and configurations of UK Chinooks, as there seems to be a lot variations even between just these four. ZA708 goes back to the original batch delivered in 1981, but is now apparently a HC6 ZH900 is a HC5. As unsurprisingly is ZH899! All four refueled rotors running, so with my love of photographing in 'golden' hour I went back down the other end to catch them coming out, as they wouldn't take too long. Sure enough, they're timing was spot on. Not bad for just two hours at a normally very quiet airfield. Like the USAF operated base at nearby Mildenhall, Wattisham also appears to have a long term future after many rumours of it closing and moving the Apache force down to the South West, where most UK helicopters are based. The base personnel and civilian staff have been told formally to expect no closure for at least 10 to 15 years! Gary
  3. Gents, I hope you guys don't mind me putting some more pictures up. As alongside this thread I now have the Lakenheath and long standing Mildenhall thread running simultaneously. Having been on furlough from work and after many months on inactivity with the camera I now have some time too use it. With the fine evening weather all this week I've been continuing my sessions up the road at the Army Air Corps Apache base of Wattisham. Monday was spent at Mildenhall/Lakenheath as already posted, Tuesday was back to Wattisham. When the sun dipped too low for conventional photography I moved around to try and catch a section that had been out locally - the whole sortie was flown within a few miles of the base. Wattisham isn't the best place to try this with a sunset, as the alignment and geography of the base isn't very helpful when shooting from the outside, still not a bad effort. Wednesday night saw the wind and runway direction go around. Caught one callsign during circuits as he turns over the fence. At dusk both the sections that were still out returned, less than a mile apart, so as they were heading for the far end, I went for the skyline as they came back from the North. Slayer in the lead with Gunship a few seconds behind. Tonight, and the last run of the week saw no dusk activity, but some wing overs over the road beside the fence. A little more conventional. Gary
  4. Hi, Lakenheath is closed again today, not sure if it will be the same pattern and they attempt a repair today and fly again tomorrow. It's obvious this pattern cannot continue but short of a lengthily closure and some major works not sure what they can do. It must be associated with the repairs that were conducted a few weeks ago as although it's hot this week by UK standards (30 degrees plus), thats hardly hot by global standards. We had a few days last year that were hotter than this - 35 degrees plus - and Lakenheath never had any problems. Mildenhall and to a lesser extent Lakenheath have always had something of a 'reputation' shall I say. That's not just from the point of view of a UK civilian enthusiast looking in (although we do find it highly amusing at times listening in to them getting themselves in a muddle) but that's a reputation they have built up amongst their own peers. There is a reason why US military aircraft transiting through the UK have gone through the civilian airfield on the West coast of Scotland at Prestwick when they can arrange it, and it's not because of Trumps nearby golf course, despite what the media may believe when they became aware of it recently - it's been going on for years. Quite often Prestwick can be full of KC-135s, C-17s, various models of C-130s, all paying their landing and accommodation fees, whilst a USAF operated military airfield just a couple of hundred miles further South is empty besides the residents. The simple fact is the crews try to avoid Mildenhall. It's an awful experience, the billeting and accommodation is poorly organised, support for transits is pretty much non-existent, even for types like KC-135s that are based here. ATC is...well I could fill a whole thread detailing some of their howlers, and that's just what I've heard, others have seen far worse. Many transiting aircraft commanders have lost their cool with them over the radio. It never made the national press, and this is no exaggeration, but last year the twin bases between them came very close to having a flight of transiting Mountain Home F-15Es run out of fuel in the overhead. This was a routine swap over down range, with the returning jets stopping over at Lakenheath before crossing the pond. Completely routine and obviously pre-planned and booked. Lakenheath would not take them initially as the cables had been de-rigged for a heavy movement. Nobody had restored the runway for fast jet ops despite knowing this flight was inbound. Then, whilst they waited overhead and burned down fuel, and honest, this is true as it was all monitored on the base radio frequencies, they could not find the relevant officer to certify the restored cables and runway for fast jet ops once they had got a crew out there. They would still not authorize the flight to land. By then the MO flight was getting desperate, and asked to go to Mildenhall instead. They couldn't take them until they rigged their cables as obviously Mildenhall is normally configured for heavies. Trying to get Mildenhall to do anything quickly that is unscheduled and needs expediting is asking the impossible so they wouldn't be ready in time before they ran out of fuel.By then the F-15 crews were getting not only desperate but also bloody angry, they said they were taking the runway as it was, and would deal with the details on the ground. I think they landed well below minimums and with not more than a few minutes fuel remaining. That played out for a hour overhead two operational military airfields and whilst an extreme case, less severe problems occur pretty much every day, hence my comments about the EOR crews not being at the end of the runway for the returning Retro flight on Monday, despite Lakenheath knowing they were coming. I don't know why Mildenhall and to some degree Lakenheath have this culture. It cannot be associated with just one command structure, as it's been like this for decades. Gary
  5. Hi I wouldn't be at all surprised with whats happening today. I'm not over there, too hot but they started again this morning after repairs yesterday. Been listening in and keeping up and it's gone slightly farcical again. Another hole has opened up, although this time the wind has gone around and they're working opposite way. Again, after the afternoon flights had launched so they've been told to RTB to Mildenhall. However, Mildenhall doesn't want them as they have live guns - looks like they were going to Holbeach for some live strafing - and they're not equipped for live ordnance so I don't know what they're gonna do. I half expect them to appear out of the window on the approach for Wattisham... Probably another down day tomorrow! Gary
  6. Hi Gents, Just a couple to add here from yesterdays trip out. Already put the Lakenheath ones in a separate thread but as there's not anything special I thought I would put them in the regular thread. It was very quiet, most of the tankers are away, as are most of the MC-130Js as well, just the Ospreys seemed to be here in numbers. There wasn't a single transiting aircraft on the field. Monitoring movements in time to get too the correct spot with the camera is difficult as the radio frequencies are all screwed up at the moment. Late last year there was one of the whole sale frequency changes that occasionally happens with the military allocations in the UK. It should have been straightforward, a set date was announced, I even had a copy of the NATS document listing all the changes so it should have been a case of just changing them in the radio on the date listed....never that easy is it? It's June and some bases have changed some frequencies, some they haven't when they should, some have even changed multiple times. It doesn't matter if us, the enthusiasts can't keep up with it, but the crews seem to be as confused as much as we are. I've lost track of the number of times I've heard crews being told that they have the wrong frequency, or they have to ask what it is as it's not what it should be. So yesterday I was frequently in the wrong place for the few movements I did see. Based tanker landing and turning off South side. Unfortunately wrong side for the nose art, but shooting across to the runway is a waste of time due to heat haze. Cropped the first a little loose as you can see the tower on the right and the CV-22 line on the left. This caught me unawares, and at the wrong end of the field as well. RAF C-17 in for some circuit work, which they've been doing quite frequently whilst it's been quiet. That aircraft is the exact airframe I had a flight on nearly 20 years ago when first delivered to the RAF. It's also the one that hardly flies nowadays, it's rumoured to have a few problems.... I would have gone down the other end to get him on the approach, as they're usually in for a while, but after two ILS's he was waved off because of the problems at Lakenheath and the then probability that their F-15s would be diverting into Mildenhall. I was at the Western end to check if any of the CV-22 were looking like they were going to go out, bearing in mind it takes them forever to prep. Finally got one, but summer is never a good time to try this as the light had already gone around too far. The last shot before I moved over too Lakenheath for the Retros was one of the few MC-130Js on base coming out. Then I moved to LN, which is on a separate thread. Gary
  7. Hi again gents, Thanks. Hi Bee, the size was 19' by 9', confirmed by Lakenheath on the radio when advising the inbound Retro flight. As you can see on the pics the jets rolling out are keeping to the South side of the runway as instructed. It was supposedly beside one of the cables. What may be a factor is that earlier this month Lakenheath closed for a few days for essential runway work so something may have gone wrong. Definitely no operations today, NOTAM posted confirming closure. Gary
  8. Gents, Spent a mostly quiet and unproductive afternoon at Mildenhall today when I found out that a 'Retro' flight of F-15s that had just completed their depot maintenance at Warner-Robins AFB was on the way back across the pond for Lakenheath. So I thought I would wait for them, even though they weren't expected until evening, but it was a pleasant day. Lakenheath was on 24 with Westerly winds. Then this afternoon, immediately after the local sorties had launched a 19 foot hole apparently appeared in the Lakenheath runway at the Eastern end! Cue lots of discussion between SOF and the airborne flights and for a while everybody was going to Mildenhall instead. Then the plan changed to take them from the 06 end at Lakenheath with a tail wind. So moving over to Lakenheath I had no idea what the Retro flight would do once they got here. They also took the 06 end (after being advised to land off centreline on the Southern side of the runway) so I shot them as they rolled out. Unusual to see F-15Es in this condition immediately after being in the shop. Retro on the break. I'm sure most are aware of the tragedy that occurred at Lakenheath exactly a week ago. Whilst I was waiting I remembered I had read this; https://www.robins.af.mil/News/Article-Display/Article/2224898/warner-robins-air-logistics-complex-honors-fallen-usaf-pilot-from-raf-lakenheath/ Well, that was the lead jet in the flight. Retro 92/93. When I'd got there I noticed the EOR crew had cleared off from their usual spot, which with Lakenheath not flying routine sorties late was understandable, but I did wonder if word had got through that they still had a flight coming in from stateside, maybe they would come back when the flight was due or they would do the usual checks and pins at parking. So Retro flight pulled into EOR and waited... ..and waited, when queried on the radio by the crews, it suddenly dawned on Lakenheath that they'd forgot! They were still sat there waiting, engines running 20 minutes later when I left and still nobody had turned up! Flying cancelled for tomorrow - they've got a hole to fill in. Gary
  9. Hi Gents, A few more from some more fine evenings, including some visitors. Wildcats working in the area recently, this was a Royal Marine flight despite the 'Army' markings. There's been quite a lot of Chinook activity in East Anglia recently, caught this early upgraded veteran, delivered 1981 from the first UK batch, on the way in for a quick running refuel. Lots of the regulars, who seem to be catching up on missed training during the early couple of months of the virus. Directly over the fenceline. A big shout out to the crew of 'Machete 1' last night, who came over to the fence and hovered directly in front of me. Probably more to follow looking at next weeks forecast. Gary
  10. Hi Bee, Not that I know of. I've always wondered why we've never fitted them myself. The UK spec Apache may have a different engine fitted - although that's now going to change - but the engine nacelles and airframe externally in that area is identical so I don't see why such a simple and surely not that expensive fit hadn't been applied years ago! One of these days I'll ask somebody when I get the chance. I've seen the pic of the first of the 'new' UK Apaches after being handed over to the UK at Mesa, just before a crew flew it out, and it still - at that point anyway - has the normal engine exhaust. I suppose once they go on the front line there is a chance it may happen. It's still at least a year before any of these arrive here on the AAC front line Apache force at Wattisham. Gary
  11. Hi gents, Now that lockdown has been relaxed here in the UK to some degree I've popped up to the fence of my local airfield on the last two fine evenings as the Army Air Corps seem to have burst into activity this week, which is most unusual - they must have a load of training to catch up on. Which is probably quite accurate if what I'm hearing is true, my cousin is now dating a NCO in the AAC Apache pipeline and his course is way behind schedule. No real virus dangers here, Wattisham airfield is in deep rural Suffolk (which is why many of the Army youngsters don't like it!) and unlike say, Mildenhall or Lakenheath I am pretty certain to be alone on the fence - the biggest danger being the stupid time trial cyclists who charge around these country lanes and blind corners trying to kill themselves! Photographing Apaches well at Wattisham is quite a task, but occasionally things work out. Rural Suffolk with a two ship on the approach. I don't know if any of the guys on here have read the book 'Apache' by the former AAC pilot who wrote under the name of Ed Macy? The finale of his first book is when a pair of AAC Apaches landed at Jugroom Fort in Afghanistan, January 2007 to recover a missing Royal Marine by strapping him and the rescuers to the sides of the Apaches, including Macys. Unfortunately, he was already dead upon recovery. More detail is here; https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jugroom_Fort Reason I mention it, is this is the actual cab that he was flying that day, a former colleague of his confirmed it when 'Macy' checked his logbook; ZJ224. Two ship swapping lead over the runway before another circuit. I notice that the first 'new' AH-64E has been handed over to the AAC in the US only a few days ago. This will eventually return the UK Apache force back to the standard US spec and deletes the UK only engines.I don't know if we will keep the CRV-7 rockets or UK spec HIDAS as yet. Gary
  12. Gents, Just some info from earlier today. One of the popular Lakenheath heritage F-15s that was marked up last year for the D-Day anniversary's has returned to the US for rework and repaint so will not be seen again. The red tailed jet from the 492nd left earlier today and has apparently landed at Westover ARB, along with another Eagle, presumably heading for Warner-Robins where they do the F-15 overhauls I believe? The yellow tailed jet from the 494th has already gone back, so that just leaves the single seat blue tailed F-15C from the 493rd left here at Lakenheath. Shame, but they had a good run. Anybody around Westover might get a chance to see it before it moves on. Gary
  13. Gents, News that should surprise nobody considering how many times this had been delayed. https://www.stripes.com/news/plans-to-move-tankers-special-operations-wing-from-mildenhall-to-germany-are-put-on-hold-1.621904?fbclid=IwAR37RH289W9EW734zSIoMTTKlfRP-XiWVWagSURJjfpHA1anSp6PXy6pjmo#.XmfdPIDiH5k.facebook Gary
  14. Thanks guys. Hi Andrew, yeah, that's what I've heard and there are some lists around that tell you who they are - not my area of expertise I'm afraid! Here's a link showing all 16 that have returned too date. The 492nd birds with the 494th deployment don't have nose art. Only 4 apparently came back on Monday so there's still 2 downrange somewhere. https://www.fightercontrol.co.uk/forum/viewtopic.php?f=16&t=186518 Gary
  15. Gents, I made a last minute dash to Lakenheath this afternoon to try and catch the 494th FS coming home after their six month tour out East. The weather was rather changeable and unfortunately the ETA's for the two cells due today had them arriving pretty much with the sun straight down the nose, and I was hoping for some nose art in line with previous tours. I couldn't get away too early on a Sunday and I missed the first cell of six as 'Tabor 71' flt were turning in on the circuit as I was some distance away. I made it in time for 'Tabor 81' and they appeared in the overhead just as the sun peeked out of the clouds, but unfortunately at around 15:00 the sun is directly down the runway. Anyway, this is the results; Maybe the reason that 98-0133 doesn't show any nose art is that it appears to have been borrowed from the 492nd FS? 01-2000 was a little wobbly on approach and high. Looks like a variation on the old 494th badge. 92-0364. 91-0329. 00-3000. 91-0326. Third cell is apparently due tomorrow. I'm sure some pics of the first cell will appear soon. Gary
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