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Big Lakenheath round up with visitors.

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I won't go into a lot of background on this one, as I've covered it many times before but I spent Thursday and Friday morning at my usual spot - the 24 approach into Lakenheath. Sub-zero at the moment here in the South East of the UK but lovely and clear once the fog and mist clears. Big post this so here goes.


Local F-35 flights Thursday morning returning. 10 aircraft launched from the current 21 on strength. More superb and spirited circuits for the cameras.

































That's a selection from the very large amount I took of these guys when they came back. The concerns we had that the relationship between the photographers and the 48th FW would change because of the F-35 arrival are definitely unwarranted. The jet may never be a looker but the Valkyrie's are doing their best to show it off.


Elmendorf F-22s have been in Europe. mostly at Lask in Poland for a while now, and the drag to take them back has been assembling for a week or so, with various KC-46's, KC-10s and US based KC-135s arriving at Mildenhall over that time. These guys came in direct from Elmendorf so it was expected they would go back direct, which would be a hefty trip. Given what usually happens with these nowadays the locals were watching with interest. The first two attempts at the beginning of the week were canned before anybody got off the deck due to the usual serviceability problems.  On Thursday the Raptors were off the deck and West bound when it fell apart at Mildenhall. The tankers were serviceable but because it was sub-zero they didn't start to de-ice them in time so they couldn't launch to meet the drags time window and the whole thing was canned. The Raptors couldn't get back into any of the planned diversions in Europe as the weather was below minimums so we're sitting at Lakenheath (blue skies!) starting to think we might get a bonus, although the Raptor drivers were none too pleased. Sure enough diversion into Lakenheath once they've run their fuel down over East Anglia. 'Cube 21/26' flight came in in three pairs. Nice.














Although you can't see it at this resolution, Cube 23 has a RAAF exchange pilots name on the nose wheel door.


















Nice bonus, for us anyway but I can guess that they're not pleased with Mildenhall. Friday morning the crossing was back on... six started, four taxied after two went u/s, one came back immediately after also going u/s, although he was able to quickly hop into one of the now fixed jets and rejoin the flight as a four ship - this time only as far as Langley. The other two remain here. 


Slow start from the F-15s on Thursday but they did start up late morning.


Lady Liberty still looks nice.






I must have seen Bane on every trip over in 2022!






...and some plain jane jets.






Eagles hot pitted and went out again, and although I was hoping for some arty sunset shots as the sun sets directly inline with the runway this time of year, they came back a little early so went for some close up, down by the approach low light shots. I was hoping to try it with the '35s, but they they didn't go up again after their early morning wave.












Now Friday morning is very similar as it was F-15s only, no '35s so I won't repeat the same shots again, although, and finally, there was a exception. At last, they got the anniversary F-15 up in the morning wave. It seems to be a bit of a hangar queen, just like that final F-15C the 493rd marked up at the beginning of the year. It flew last week, coming back with a IFE and taking the cable and this was I believe it's first trip out since.








Straight in only, no circuits unfortunately (the Raptors were holding for their departure) and it would have been nice to see the airbrake but no complaints.


So that's it, a very small selection from a excellent two days of bright sunshine, but sub-zero temperatures. Good on the F-35 guys for sending somebody out with a load of sqn souvenirs on Friday morning. He did pretty well and I now have a official 495th Valkyrie's cap and patch. I'd have loved to have stopped to talk to the guy but unfortunately on Friday I had to be somewhere in the afternoon.    


Gary - still thawing out!




Edited by gary1701
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1 hour ago, A-10 LOADER said:

Very nice shots Gary. What focal length do you use for shooting the landing shots ?



Hi and thanks. I'm normally using two bodies and two lenses. One body will have the 100-400mm fitted, the other a 300mm prime. For a conventional landing shot I will usually use the 100-400 and go back to about the 200mm mark, give or take a little. All the shots of the F-35s and F-22s were taken on the 100-400mm, with the side on's being around the 200mm mark and more nose aspect angles zoomed further. I can't get further back because I'm backed up against the fence in a field with a treeline behind me. I like the flexibility of the zoom but the image quality of the prime is better. The decision making as to positioning and which equipment has to be made before I see the aircraft as the 24 approach into Lakenheath is over a forest and I am backed onto it. If a aircraft is pulling a tight circuit behind and too my right I don't see how close it is until it emerges from behind the trees and I'm committed as what I'm using for that approach.  Google map below illustrates it.  I'm standing at roughly point A for the standard side approach at about 200mm




The low light F-15 shots were a mixture of nose on with the 300mm prime for the added quality and also some on the 100-400mm zoomed back. On those I have walked down beside the road to point B. You can position as close as you wish, no restrictions as it's public land outside the base. Shot below was on the 300mm prime  on one of the last approaches Thursday evening.






Edited by gary1701
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Thanks gents. Yes, I am rather lucky in that Mildenhall/Lakenheath is about a 50 minute drive for me, Wattisham (British Army Apache base) is about 10 minutes! Have the rest of the week off so looking at the weather forecast it might be worth another run out Thursday - gotta take advantage when you can!



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Hi again gents.


An update as I went back again yesterday morning. Even colder here in the South East, Lakenheath was broadcasting -8 on its ATIS and it sure felt it. Morning wave only and you could tell the guys were nervous about a weather diversion as similar conditions on Wednesday afternoon caused the base to go from fine and clear to blanketed in fog in about 15 minutes causing weather diversions for a number of F-15s and F-35s. Luckily it stayed clear all morning. The two remaining F-22s from the diversion on the 8th are still here so I would imagine it's now touch and go as to whenever they'll make it back for Christmas.


It flew again although the other jet in the two ship was a ground abort right at the end of the runway. These E models are getting noticeably more prone to ground aborts and each wave of 8 to 12 jets generally has multiple aborts on start up and much running around for spare jets!




The now usual  8 to 10 F-35s out in a single wave. These are maintaining a pretty good rate as they are able to fly around 50% of their strength every day. The RAF/RN up the road at Marham have a busy day when they put up about 20% of their B models, and that's on a day when they operate, frequently they don't.


















































Newly applied colour 'Liberty' Wing crest on this jet.






That's it. Not bad for the UK in winter. Seven days off work, three days spent at a airfield taking piccies in sunshine! Would have been more if a damn cold hadn't put me off earlier this week.






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23 minutes ago, A-10 LOADER said:

A 50% FMC rate for brand news jets is pretty crappy if you ask me. Love the Eagle shots.


Parts availability.

GAO report criticized DoD for not buying spare parts, and just buying aircraft.

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1 hour ago, A-10 LOADER said:

A 50% FMC rate for brand news jets is pretty crappy if you ask me. Love the Eagle shots.



Hi, yeah I would agree if that was the availability rate for the 21 jets on the unit at this time but that wasn't necessarily the case, just that they flew half of their total jets at the same time, and have been consistently doing that for a while now. They may well have been able to fly more if required, just that was all that was scheduled for the morning and all that was required. I believe on a Friday morning, missions at the 48th are generally picking up what they couldn't get off earlier in the week as the 48th plans it's sorties for just the four days. Quite a few yesterday but the weather recall and diversions to RAF Waddington on Wednesday must have caused some disruptions, the last diversion did not return to Lakenheath until late Friday afternoon.


 I think locally the sorties numbers they have been flying is surprisingly high, and compares well with the UK F-35B's up the road.   



Edited by gary1701
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On 12/17/2022 at 2:30 PM, habu2 said:

Parts availability?  Whatever happened to ALIS?

Lol.  ALIS can tell you that you’ll need the parts but if the AF didn’t want to buy them, it is what it is.     Didn’t ALIS get phased out a while back?


Great shots Gary, thanks for taking the time to post.    

Merry Christmas guys.   

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  • 2 weeks later...

Hello Gary,

WOW!! those photographs  are amazing to look at.

Thank you for sharing your joyful day and posting these beautiful  images.

Much appreciated  


HOLMES. :thumbsup2:


 edit .Noun correction 

Edited by HOLMES
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