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Posted (edited)

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;




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.



Edited by gary1701
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Jolly good photos! :thumbsup:


I don't know... There's something otherworldly about Apaches. They look really menacing. Cool beasts. :gr_devil:

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Great pictures!   Any idea if they plan to convert the exhausts to the upward discharging UES version used by current US Army Apaches?

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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.



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The original Westland built WAH-64s used Turbomeca RTM322 engines, the new E models will have an updated version of the GE T700 engines used in US Army Apaches.  These new T700s still have a lower SHP rating than the RTM322s.

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  • 4 weeks later...


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.





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Posted (edited)



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.










Edited by gary1701
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  • 1 month later...



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!



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Great pictures as always.  When did the RAF 'hooks get FLIR and radar?  Are they special ops helos or is this a fleetwide mod?

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Posted (edited)


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.



Edited by gary1701
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