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gary1701

Cobra Warrior 2019.

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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.

 

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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.

 

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This one shows the four ship of IDF F-15s ('Ace' flight) holding short on the North side behind.

 

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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.

 

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Returning, only the lead Luftwaffe EF-2000 was caught before the clouds came in - grr!

 

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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!

 

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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.

 

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Then they all launched towards us but only the single Italian obliged, but it was a perfect angle - well done that man!

 

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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.

 

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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.

 

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Some of the others, looks like the Luftwaffe has the same problem with the refuelling probe!

 

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You have to hand it the Italians, even their recoveries are tighter, more flamboyant than anybody else, these guys really pulled them round tight.

 

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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!

 

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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

 

 

 

Edited by gary1701

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Absolutely fantastic pictures Gary!   Any idea how those IDF jets made it to the UK?  Did they go non-stop with tanker support or route though another base (or two)?

 

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38 minutes ago, 11bee said:

Absolutely fantastic pictures Gary!   Any idea how those IDF jets made it to the UK?  Did they go non-stop with tanker support or route though another base (or two)?

 

 

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

Edited by gary1701

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Excellent photos, and enjoyed your report.  Well done!

 

David

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Is it possible the IDF have put the wrong serials on the jets on purpose to confuse anyone who is keeping track of how many F-15's Israel has in service?

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7 hours ago, Alternative 4 said:

Is it possible the IDF have put the wrong serials on the jets on purpose to confuse anyone who is keeping track of how many F-15's Israel has in service?

Yes it is possible, but other published records could sort it out, i.e. production records and histories, which are real numbers and which are faked.

The only time of faked serial numbers being successful that I know of were on the SR-71 and the U-2 aircraft as no numbers were published until after mid life. HTH.

:cheers:

Itch

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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


 

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Excellent work as usual Gary!

Appreciate you "getting about" and chancing location there - maximizing opportunity! Cheers

 

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

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