During the last Red Flag exercise in March this year at Nellis AFB, Paul Filmer made a couple of trips to the Panamint Valley to catch aircraft transiting low-level.
It’s always very hit and miss, involves a lot of driving to arrive early enough, and there’s lots of waiting around for just a few seconds of action.
During the first week of the Flag we only shot a pair of Edwards’ F-16s, and only one of those actually dropped into the Canyon. Any aircraft that skirt the area or don’t drop-in, I never count.
I had my best day to date during the third week when we saw four aircraft drop-in, although there were many more that came close.
First up, early on, was a lone VFA-86 F/A-18E which raised our hopes for the remainder of the day.
It wasn’t until the afternoon that the second aircraft turned up, which for me was the highlight. An EA-18G from VX-9, and looking at the backseater, he did spot us, but they never came back for a second pass. The best part of this was the unique sound that emanates from the Growler, I just wish I’d recorded it!
Another VX-9 aircraft from China Lake pitched up later, this time a lone F/A-18F.
Finally a VFA-154 F/A-18F came along pulling vapour while swinging his wings from side to side, clearly having fun with no one in the rear seat.
All in all a couple of good days out, although very long ones.