Gordon Jones brings us a blogGAR from RAF Mildenhall, where he recently spent some time hunting an elusive U-Boat!
As I said in my very first BlogGAR, I have what borders of a mild obsession with shooting RC-135s. An obsession that is probably equal to my mild obsession with shooting in sunlight with blue skies! Now, living in the UK with our unreliable weather, infrequent visits from the ‘white tops’ and a 200 mile round trip to RAF Mildenhall, you could argue that I’m not making things easy for myself, but if it was easy where would the challenge be?
Considering all the above, I do pretty well in managing to catch the RC-135s that do transit through the UK, with one exception; the RC-135U Combat Sent or U-Boat (the U coming from the type’s designation rather than any connection to submarines), this being one type of RC-135 that has eluded me, despite seeing one parked up at Mildenhall on three separate occasions! My best chance came when RC-135U 64-14849 arrived in the UK on 27 February. I had expected it to transit through as part of a mission and spent the following day at Mildenhall waiting for it to depart, but instead it was handed over the 95th RS who proceeded to operate it. Unfortunately most of this coincided with a period of poor weather and other commitments kept me away until 27 May, a staggering three months after its arrival, when I finally got it returning to Mildenhall in the sun!
The U-Boat returned to the US on 31 May after flying only one further sortie. I really couldn’t have left it much later!
I’ve always had much more success with the RC-135V Rivet Joint variants and 64-14843 was no exception when it arrived 03 June on its way back to the US as part of an airframe rotation. Once again the 95th RS took the chance to fly the aircraft and I managed to shoot it four times in two days before it departed.
The same period of time saw a number of other rotations, helped by Naval Station Rota closing for June, which included P-3s from VP-40, AC-130Us from the 4th SOS and, to add the final touch to a great few days, my first RC-12X – another aircraft type I’m a big fan of.
One of the P-3Cs was fitted with the Littoral Surveillance Radar System (LSRS) pod – the large canoe on the belly of the aircraft. The system was originally developed as a black project to track small ocean vessels but has more recently been put to use to track objects over land, in a similar role to the J-STARS, as part of the war on terror. A similar version is reportedly being developed for the P-8A Poseidon. Since the P-3s were part of a rotation and there is a limited number of LSRS pods, it would seem this pod is either being returned to the US for overhaul or is no longer needed in theatre.
I really couldn’t have asked for much more over those three days.
Now, if the good people at Offutt could send over another RC-135S Cobra Ball for me to chase…..