Having got lucky last year and bagged himself a US Marine Corps F/A-18 Hornet at Coyote Summit, Chris Wood thought he’d give it another go this year during the latest Red Flag exercise, rather than spend another day watching the activity at Nellis AFB.
This was the result of last year’s trip, and gives an idea of the type of shots that can be achieved here ….
Coyote Summit is on the ET highway and is an easy two hour drive north from Las Vegas.
The approach to the location is across a wide valley, roughly 20 miles across, our ‘spot’ is the top of the hill on the left (I think!)
A short distance beyond it is the small town of Rachel, home to this well known tourist attraction!
As we got close we spotted a couple of Humvees setting up off the road.
As we got into Rachel we passed a lorry turning off the road. This lorry had a radar on top and a large tube down either side. Unfortunately we didn’t get a photo, but suspect it was a mobile Roland SAM.
From the top of the hill the Humvee was visible down below, despite the crew’s efforts to conceal it………..
We also noticed another one, plus something that looked like a group of vehicles further away …………
……………. which turned out to be a small group of cows! (which was obvious when viewed from a different angle!!) This does show how deceptive appearances can be, and that’s when standing still. Imagine having to figure that out at speeds approaching 500 knots!
We then waited for the action to start. “Was that two Humvees, Mark…………?”
Coyote is on the eastern side of the ranges, which is where the Blue forces gather, and the contrails from the Blue tanker track could be seen in the distance. The Red forces gather on the western side, and after a while a few contrails appeared from this direction, heading our way. These look to be a pair of Aggressor F-16s and an F-15.
These turned away as contrails from the east headed in to intercept them, the unmistakeable shape of a Typhoon from the Royal Air Force’s 11 Squadron at RAF Coningsby…..
…… and an F-22 Raptor from the 1st Fighter Wing at Langley AFB, Virginia.
At this point we were treated to the sound of several sonic booms reverberating around the valley.
Next up was a pair of large contrails moving in from the east. Surprisingly the first one turned out to be a B-52, surprising as they were non at Nellis and they were not listed for the exercise.
This was closely followed by another unmistakable shape, that of a B-2 believed to be “Spirit of South Carolina”, showing how un-stealthy it can be by day!
These two then came back and exited the ranges using the same route as they entered. However the B-52 then did a large orbit and appeared to be engaged by the Roland system we’d seen earlier, judging by the smokey SAM we spotted in the distance!
This appeared to attract the attention of a pair of F-16s, presumably Wild Weasel aircraft from the 20th Fighter Wing at Shaw AFB South Carolina.
The only low level trade we saw was a flight of four RAF Tornados from 12 Squadron at RAF Lossiemouth, streaking across the valley well to the south of us….
…….. and over the ridge
They came back on a similar route, the black dot over the road is a Tornado!
So, a blank day photographically, in terms of what what we were hoping for at least, but a good day out regardless, and we did spot this!
It was also interesting to watch the battles overhead and listen to the chatter on the radio, with lots of calls like “MiG 3, you’re dead”!
Finally, we were not alone!
Until next time!