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About gary1701

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  • Birthday 08/23/1969

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    Next door to Apache central!

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  1. Thanks gents, My comments in the Ospreys for Indonesia thread elsewhere on the forum go into some more details on the long term problems with the MV/CV-22 Osprey, but to elaborate a little here as well. I've been watching these since they first turned up and were permanently assigned to the 7th Special Operations Sqn in mid 2013, although a test deployment had been made by stateside aircraft as far back as 2011. I don't get over there as much now as I used to since a job change in 2014 - ironically I now work for another subsidiary of the corporation that owns Bell helicopters, one half of the consortium that makes the V-22! However, I keep up with what goes on at Mildenhall, and it has to be remembered that a lot of their personnel live off base in the community, and have close contact with a lot of local aviation enthusiasts. So off the record you tend to find out the reality behind the bland PR nonsense that is the norm nowadays. Certainly, I've heard enough to indicate that the personnel who operate and maintain it at Mildenhall are not impressed. I would say that 1 in 3 sorties that I've seen attempt to launch results in a abort, and that's only sorties that I am aware that they're planning, either from activity around the aircraft, radio comms or after engine start. It's normal policy to rotate the rotors vertical a couple of hours before engine start. Also remember these things don't do quick, it takes quite a few hours of personnel activity around an aircraft before they launch, and sometimes up to a hour of ground running - strange characteristics for a SF tasked aircraft I would have thought. Even after launching they will frequently return u/s. Those shots of '060 above with the .050 on the back ramp were taken on the last routine flying day before Christmas last year, and that crew were on their second aircraft, the first went u/s and returned early so they swapped. Obviously, I realize that complex modern military aircraft have always had poor serviceability compared to their simpler predecessors - I live next door to the Apaches at Wattisham so am very familiar with the norm. I have no doubt that the V-22 is a maintenance and availability nightmare, even many years after first being deployed. At Mildenhall they replaced 7 MH-53s with a normal strength of 9 CV-22s, although that number varies depending on deployments and the rotation of airframes from US units, so that may well indicate they need more airframes to produce the same level of availability. Even when the first 2 turned up in the summer of 2013, one vanished into the hangar immediately with gear box problems (a common issue with the type) and didn't reappear to make it's first UK sortie for many months! I like the type to observe and photograph, as they are interesting to watch, but as a value for money piece of military hardware, they're not very good and thankfully the UK hasn't spent valuable defence funds on acquiring any, despite the nonsense the tabloids have often sprouted about them being used by UK special forces. That's always been misidentified Mildenhall aircraft. Interestingly, Japan is the only export customer for the type, although deployment to Japan was delayed for a long time due to local opposition. Israel came close, but wisely backed out. One final thought, CV-22s have the worst radio equipment I have ever monitored! Which again seems strange for a relatively modern type. They're so scratchy and poor quality I can rarely make out what they're saying on the radio, but I instantly know I'm monitoring a CV-22! Gary
  2. Gents, If the Indonesians are looking at the MV-22 then they must have money to burn. Whilst I've enjoyed photographing and watching the type at Mildenhall since they first turned up in 2013, even now they're hardly a reliable and capable piece of equipment, particularly in the SF role. Even the more basic MV-22 used by the USMC has many restrictions on it's operations that were not applied to it's predecessor, the Sea Knight. I remember reading an article not that long ago by a former USN helo pilot who stated that they're not allowed to operate alone over water, and that they're time operating over the sea is also restricted. From the many sorties I have seen dispatched from Midlenhall I would say there is a one in three chance that the aircraft will cancel prior to departure due to serviceability. They also take forever to prepare and launch, with several hours between preparing and rotor start, plus sometimes up to a hour after that before lifting. How this makes them a good SF aircraft I do not know, but is probably down to what was available for conversion to the role more than anything else. It may be quite telling that the SOS at Mildenhall require more CV-22 airframes than the old MH-53s to generate sorties. After the near loss of several CV-22s to small arms fire in Africa several years ago, they rolled out a armour package for the type, but find it's already struggling with weight issues in hot climates, and this has only added to the problems. I think it's one type that the UK can avoid, as it's a niche capability that can be covered by other types, maybe not quite as well when the Osprey actually is serviceable, but well enough that we don't need to spend a fortune on another type in small numbers. Gary
  3. Gents, I thought I would put a selection of pics together of the CV-22 Osprey that I have taken at Mildenhall in the last few years. Operating from their apron on the North Western corner of Mildenhall they're fairly easy to photograph, especially from the end of Pollards Lane, which over looks they're usual rotation spot, called the 'Alpha' pad. You'll frequently find that they go out prior to dusk for night ops, often alongside the MC-130J's. They're still hardly the most reliable of types, and I've lost count of the number of times I've been about to photograph one and it's aborted it's departure due to unserviceability, or if they're out locally they will frequently come back early broke. Anyway, here's a selection, mostly from the Western end of Mildenhall. Landing on the Alpha pad - note the muddy wheels! Lifting from the runway at dusk. Hope that little lot is of interest. Gary
  4. Hi Tim, I look forward to seeing this being built. Just a reference to the configuration of the early UK Apache. I was seeing Wattisham airframes not fitted with HIDAS well into 2008/9. In fact looking through pics I see numerous examples of airframes that have carried HIDAS not being fitted at a later date. I can only speculate that the sets were rotated as airframes came back from deployment. ZJ231, Wattisham, June 2008. I photographed this one again last week. Gary
  5. Gents, Another bunch from last week on the sunny evenings. Wing overs taken from underneath as they pull up. Turning over the North side fence as the crew over shoot. Same callsign landing. Some 'arty-farty' on a couple of evenings last week. Wattisham is not a good place for this, as the alignment and geography of the base doesn't really work, unlike somewhere like Coningsby, where it's relatively easy. Hunter section returning from a sortie which was entirely flown just a few miles North of Wattisham over the old 8th AAF airfield at Rattlesden, now used as a small airstrip and gliding site. I could watch them flying a CAS 'wheel' from Wattisham. Hunter 1 with a final circuit before dusk. The following evening and a change of runway ends to the West, which is even more difficult to try, so shooting from the Eastern end as Slayer and Gunships sections came back just a mile or so apart and flew across the Northern skyline. Gary
  6. Nice, I may have to take a wander up again. I used to go up for photography many times a year but in recent years I just haven't bothered as with the vast majority of the fleet just varying shades of worn grey it hasn't seemed worth the trip. I gather that at the moment there is just two marked for 12 Sqn. I also believe that the farmers earth mound at the 07 end on the South Western corner has been removed which means no more elevated views across that end. Gary
  7. Here's a few more gents from the last couple of weeks, including some interlopers popping in for refueling. Activity is still up a fair amount, although not quite as high as that first week. This last week has seen a FARP up by the North Western side of the field with approaches directly over the fence... Even had a crew come over and pose by the fence for the camera, been many years since they've done that. Gary
  8. Thanks guys, I was shocked to see that these were the first pics I had taken on the fence here since August 2018. Opportunity has been lacking, not from my end as I can pretty much pop up any evening of the week as it's just a couple of miles up the road, but because it normally isn't worth it nowadays, but this last week has been extremely busy, don't know why. I know they're behind on training, as they did shut down for a couple of weeks early in the virus crisis - my cousin is currently dating a trainee AH driver and his course is way behind. I also notice that the first of the 'new' AH-64Es was handed over to the AAC at Mesa during the week. It'll still be at least a year before they arrive here on the front line though. There has been a lot of rumour in the last couple of years that Wattisham was on the chopping block and AH operations would move down to the South West (either Wallop or Boscombe were the usual locations mentioned) to co-locate with all the other UK helo types. That's not going to happen now, if it ever was seriously on the table, the AH-64E is definitely coming here, Boeing have a considerable presence on the base already in connection with the echo model, and long delayed infrastructure work has now been finally green lit. A brand new radar system was installed this year and went live this month. Of course, nothing is ever 100% certain, especially as now the MoD will obviously be clobbered as usual next year with massive cuts, but it looks pretty likely I should be seeing Apaches around here for years to come. I have even heard that far from moving operations away, it's being considered that Middle Wallop Apache ops could be moved here. Few more from the many I shot during the week! Gary
  9. Gents, Here's a selection, right up to the minute pics which may be of help as a reference for AAC Apache builds. Rural Suffolk and the Wattisham area is pretty empty even at the best of times so knowing that there wouldn't be a sole around and I would be alone, apart from the mad time trial cyclists still trying to kill themselves on the narrow lanes and blind corners, I've spent a couple of evenings sitting up by the fence at Wattisham. I used to spend a fair bit of time up here, as it's only a few minutes up the road, but a change of job and hours, and a large decrease in activity following the end of Afghanistan, hardly make it worth while nowadays. These have all been shot this week on the fine evenings. AAC have been uncharacteristically busy this week, operating all day and late nights pretty much all week. Not a sole around the Suffolk countryside. Gary
  10. Hi gents, Thought these might be of interest, especially as the 493rd FS F-15C in the D-Day anniversary scheme is due to be painted back to normal soon, if the 48th's comments of social media are accurate. Shot on Wednesday of this week in some nice light on the 24 approach. They didn't fly the similarly marked 492nd F-15E either, although that has been active this week. The third, the yellow tailed 494th FS jet has gone, as it's back in the US on overhaul and it will almost certainly come back blank. The 493rd 'heritage' jet, 84-0010 landing Wednesday afternoon as the second jet in 'Hitman' flight. Still seems strange to see a single seater painted in F-15E grey. Also a few routine shots of the 492nd and 493rd, the final squadron, the 494th is deployed for six months. Some of the 492nd still retain their mission tallies from their 2017 deployment. The 492nd's newly marked flagship has also strangely now acquired a green star on the nose, well after their last deployment operationally in late 2017. I can only assume they've decided to credit it with a UAV kill in a similar manner to 97-0219, the heritage jet. Still a few 494th left behind, presumably borrowed by the 492nd. Last light of the day, with a C and D paired up. Hope that's worth a look. Gary
  11. Hi, Nice and glad to see that you found the end of runway 02. I never got to see the 707's but I heard that they're departures were interesting. Gary
  12. Hi there, Okay, the images up and until the banked Italian were all taken from the A15/WAVE area on Thursday and Friday last week. You can use a step ladder up against the fence and hedge and shoot pics across the airfield and approach. It is being policed by WAVE staff with MoD/police support, the Israelis even have their own security officer in the car park, and there are some rules. If you use a stepladder they don't want you more than two steps up and will be watching - the Italians on the Southern taxiway show that should still be okay. They also don't want you closer up the road than the traffic lights, warning tape has been strung across the road at that point and again is being policed. Be advised only the Italians are coming past the road, the Germans are parked North side, and the Israelis are parked on the South Eastern corner away from the A15. First couple of days they taxied South side but now only taxi around the North - you can see them holding behind the Italians North side on the sixth pic down. The Israelis taxiing across the runway and landing are taken on Friday when they worked the far end. You can park in a layby on a small road (B1178) that runs on the Southside of the base, there's one either side of the road, the base side one is coned off and not available, but the one on the other side is - or was late last week. You need to walk down the lane towards the crash gate, it's a good ten minutes and the Israeli dispersal is right in front of you. It is possible (or again, was last week) to walk away from the Israeli dispersal to the left around the edge of the fence and field and get right to the approach. That's where all the approach shots were taken from at that end. As they were landing on the 02 runway they turn left at the top end to avoid the WAVE and the A15, taxi back down on the North side and then cross back towards their dispersal at the end in front of you. Standing on the raised grass verge between the fence and field allows you a elevated view over the runway and taxiway as they taxi across, no step ladder required. Obviously, I can't guarantee that it is still accessible as despite the hundreds down at the A15 end, there was only a dozen people down the Southern end at Friday lunchtime. I get the impression it's not well known, and I was not aware it was accessible until last week either. The Israeli dispersal is quite close, and they're not keen to have their personnel photographed, they don't really care about the jets, so I was careful not to wave a camera in their direction. They and the RAF Regiment will take a interest in people down there, there was a couple of fully tooled up RAF regiment guys by the fence watching us on Friday, but no attempt was made to move anybody and they seemed quite approachable. I think whilst it's kept to small numbers, access down there seems okay and it does allow for photo's that you can't get up by the WAVE/A15 end. Rumour has the Israelis possibly leaving on Thursday, no idea if that's accurate but just posted as a potential warning. Anything else by all means ask. Gary
  13. Gents, I spent two days late last week up at Waddington for Cobra Warrior. Thursday was nearly ruined by cloud, as I'm a bit of a stickler for having shots lit well, but Friday, despite a runway change made up for it. BUFF over the top from Friday morning. Looks like the Luftwaffe has the same problem as the RAF! Gary
  14. All, I have to admit it's been a considerable amount of time since I've been on the forum but a recent PM reminded me so I thought I would post a round of pics from trips out with the camera in the last couple of years to get back into the swing of things. No particular subject, but a mixture of pics from trips to the fences around Suffolk and Lincolnshire during some decent weather. Starting off with just a couple of weeks ago and the visit of the 93rd FS to Lakenheath. Unfortunately I managed just the one day which was before they really started to play to the crowd with some energetic departures. The 492nd D-Day anniversary jet, haven't got the other two yet. SOW ops at Mildenhall back at the end of February. 97-0219 just prior to being marked as the 492nd anniversary bird. Note the victory star for the Iranian UAV downed when deployed to the Middle East in 2017. Couple more local F-15s at Lakenheath. USN support at Mildenhall in October last year for the F/A-18 deployment into Lakenheath. This C-130T caught the heavy crosswind and nearly put the wingtip on the runway. The evening the F/A-18s arrived at Lakenheath, unfortunately I only caught the four E models as the four Fs that preceded them caught me in-between the two bases! Followed by the F-22s the next morning. Unfortunately I couldn't get back during the actual exercise days. The USAF operates two RC-135Us, both were at Mildenhall during 2018 and both also now sport the sharks mouth! Luftwaffe at Coningsby last September, they always seem to bring the bad weather with them. One of the wave of B-1s that passed through Mildenhall around the same time due to a shortage of tankers. I assume Mark (troffa) is still about so here's a few for him from my local, which I still visit from time to time. First is what was probably the last An-124 to land at Wattisham last August now that the runway is off-limits to anything fixed wing. The AH's still occasionally fly. Quick fuel stop for this Chinook. Finish this initial selection with a couple of 'arty' shots from a cold Coningsby in November. Hope it's okay to put these up after a long absence. Gary
  15. It looks like the AH is over the crest of the slope so it may not be buried in very deep. Mind you, it probably won't take a lot of damage for them to just use it for spares and not bother repairing it. The one that went done in the field South of Ipswich after striking cables in early 2012 was never repaired. Gary
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