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Operated by the 388th Fighter Wing at Hill AFB, Utah, F-16C 88-0496 is the 'boss bird' of the 4th Fighter Squadron, and wears its HL code and '4TH FS' titles in a smart grey with black highlight. The yellow fin band contains a black lightning bolt. Known as the 'Fighting Fuujins', the 4th TFS was the first operational F-16 Squadron when it established as part of the 388th TFW at Hill in 1980.
© Tim Hunter
EOS-5 70-200mm K64 350/f5.6
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Sharpshooter visited Nellis AFB for three days in October and November 2000, during the course of which a number of operations and exercises were underway. The photographs presented in this report were all taken from the desert end of the base during morning launch and recovery periods. Afternoon activity was low-key, and the best light was before two o'clock at that time of year, so we retired to the alternative attractions of Las Vegas early each day.

The main event was Red Flag 01-01 Period 2 which saw a wide range of units deployed for the exercise on the vast Nellis ranges. In an unusual departure from normal Flag exercises, the flying was split into day and night operations to simulate the new Air Expeditionary Force (AEF) concept. Night operations saw missions by both B-2s, operating directly from Whiteman AFB, and F-117As flying from Nellis. The daytime missions, whilst not as numerous as on many previous Flags, still saw a healthy assortment of fighters and support aircraft launching and recovering.

Based with the 355th Wing at Davis Monthan AFB in, Arizona, is this 354th Fighter Squadron A-10A, 80-00941. Although assigned to Red Flag 01-01 Period 1, the unit was still operating out of Nellis during the second phase of the exercise. The aircraft carries very small '354th FS / CC' titles below the DM tail code.
EOS-5 70-200mm + 1.4X K64 250/F5.6
F-15C 80-0003 is operated by the 'Fighting Crows' of the 60th Fighter Squadron, part of the 33rd Fighter Wing at Eglin AFB, Florida. The aircraft carries a green 'MiG kill' star below the windshield. In fact the kill represents a Mil-24 helicopter, shot down by AIM-7 on the February 7th 1991 during operation 'Desert Storm'. At the time, '0003' was assigned to the 525th TFS / 36th TFW home-based at Bitburg, Germany.
EOS-5 70-200mm + 1.4X K64 350/F5.6
84-0028 is an F-15C Eagle with the 'Fighting Gamecocks' of the 19th Fighter Squadron, 3rd Wing, PACAF, based at Elmendorf AFB in Alaska. Seen here in warmer climes (although only slightly!), the aircraft carries a centreline tank, finless AIM-7 rounds and an ACMI pod (unseen on the far wing pylon). With the exception of the dark blue fin band, the squadron aircraft are almost devoid of colour, even the serial and tail code are in low visibility grey.
EOS-5 70-200mm K64 350/F5.6
The flagship of the 3rd Wing assigned 90th Fighter Squadron is F-15E 90-0233, wearing the highlighted '60 FS' red fin band and AK tail code to prove it. Home based at Elmendorf in Alaska, the 'Pair o' Dice' squadron flew extensively during the second period of Red Flag 01-01, using 'Player' callsigns.
EOS-5 70-200mm + 1.4X K64 350/F5.6
This F-15E Strike Eagle, 90-0256, is operated by the F-15E Division of the Fighter Weapons School, part of the 57th Wing based at Nellis. In addition to the 'Weapons & Armament' WA tail code, black/yellow checkerboard fin band and Air Combat Command badge, the F-15E Division badge is also worn on the left conformal tank behind the air intake.
EOS-5 70-200mm + 1.4X K64 350/F5.6
EA-6B Prowler 161118/AF500 is the CAG bird of VAQ-209, and wears smart, although low key coloured markings. Since the retirement of the EF-111A Raven, the EA-6B force now carries the responsibility of fast jet electronic warfare for both the USN, USMC and USAF. Units are in high demand both for operational requirements with the fleet and at overseas bases, and for training excerises such as Red Flag.
EOS-5 70-200mm K64 350/F5.6
This Prowler coded NL534/158815 is assigned to VAQ-133 'Wizards'. With Green Flag exercises now a thing of the past, the electronic warfare element is now incorporated fully in Red Flag, and EA-6Bs are likely to be a common sight at Nellis for many years to come.
EOS-5 70-200mm K64 350/F5.6

91-0357 is an F-16C operated by the 77th Fighter Squadron 'Gamblers', part of the 20th Fighter Wing from Shaw AFB, South Carolina. Photographed approaching Runway 21 Right, the Viper carries a variety of external stores - centreline tank, ACMI pod, AIM-9 Sidewinder and AIM-120 AMRAAM.
EOS-5 70-200mm + 1.4X K64 350/F5.6

Harrier GR7 ZG503/74 of 3 Squadron, Royal Air Force, seen on approach following a morning Air Warrior training mission. RAF units regularly deploy to Nellis to take part in both Red Flag and Air Warrior exercises. 3 Squadron had also previously been deployed to MCAS Yuma in Arizona to conduct training alongside Marine Corps AV-8B units.
EOS-5 70-200mm + 1.4X K64 350/F5.6
Seen here departing from Runway 03 Left is B-52H 60-0010/LA, assigned to the 96th BS, 2nd BW. Aircraft launching with live weapons launch in this direction to avoid the risks associated with overflying the Vegas suburbs to the south. This aircraft is a veteran of Operation Allied Force and flew numerous missions from RAF Fairford against targets in Serbia and Kosovo in the spring of 1999.
EOS-5 70-200mm K64 350/F5.6
This variant of Hercules is an EC-130H electronic warfare platform, seen here on approach at the end of a morning Period 2 mission, and is assigned to the 355th Wing at Davis Monthan, Arizona. Callsign 'Pablo 05' 65-0989 wears the DM tail code, red fin band and the 'Bats' badge of the 43rd Electronic Combat Squadron.
EOS-5 70-200mm K64 180/F8
E-3B 76-1606 is assigned to the 962nd Airborne Control Squadron, whose assets operate with the 3rd Wing at Elmendorf on a rotational basis. With typically only two aircraft assigned at any time, the AK tail code is a rarely seen sight on an E-3. This recovery was photographed at around midday, and as usual, signified the end of the days Red Flag flight operations.
EOS-5 70-200mm K64 500/F5.6
Assigned to the 319th Air Refuelling Wing at Grand Forks AFB, North Dakota, KC-135R 58-0120 is a 42 year old Stratotanker flown by the 906th Air Refuelling Squadron. Flying in support of Red Flag missions the crews of Air Mobility Command tankers provide an important, and often overlooked role.
EOS-5 70-200mm K64 350/F5.6
Seen approaching Runway 21 Right is KC-10A 85-0033 from the 305th Air Mobility Wing at Maguire AFB New Jersey. Not assigned to Red Flag operations, this and a number of other KC-10s arrived on the final day of Period 2 to support unit redeployment to home bases across the States.
EOS-5 70-200mm K64 350/F5.6
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Report:Tim Hunter
Photos:Tim Hunter

The main Red Flag 01-01 Period 2 players were as follows:

20th Fighter Wing, 27th Fighter Squadron, from Shaw AFB South Carolina, with fifteen F-16C/Ds.
3rd Wing, 19th Fighter Squadron, from Elmendorf AFB, Alaska with eleven F-15C/Ds.
3rd Wing, 90th Fighter Squadron, from Elmendorf AFB, Alaska with eleven F-15Es.
33rd Fighter Wing, 60th Fighter Squadron with thirteen F-15C/Ds.
49th Fighter Wing, 8th Fighter Squadron from Holloman AFB, New Mexico with eight F-117As
2nd Bomb Wing, 96th Bomb Squadron, from Barksdale AFB, Louisiana, with three B-52Hs.
388th Fighter Wing, 4th Fighter Squadron, from Hill AFB, Utah with six F-16C/Ds.
VAQ-133 from NAS Whidbey Island, Washington with five EA-6Bs.

Supporting players included a single E-3B from each of the 552nd ACW and 962nd AACS, an EC-130H from the 43rd ECS, an RC-135V from the 38th RS and KC-135Rs from the 22nd and 319th ARWs. A number of units officially in town for Period 1 were still flying missions during the second phase, including Mountain Home based F-16C/Ds of the 389th Fighter Squadron/366th Wing; and the Davis Monthan based A-10As of the 354th Fighter Squadron/355th Wing.

Whilst Nellis has an almost mythical status amongst aviation photographers and enthusiasts, successful photography there is actually quite hard work. Since the perimeter fence was moved outwards a few years ago, the best photo vantage points are now even further out in the desert, and the aircraft even higher in relation to your EOS/Nikon/Minolta. Ideally a zoom lens up to 400mm is required for aircraft such as F-16s and A-10s, although 300mm is usually acceptable for F-15s and larger. The workhorse 70-200mm f2.8 lens of course comes into its own for the heavies such as B-52s, E-3s and KC-135s. The added problem of twin parallel runways necessitates the use of a scanner to monitor the approach and tower frequencies, although last second runway changes often lead to frustrating missed opportunities - and they're usually the squadron flagships or CAG birds!

Nellis in late autumn 2000, provided, for the first time in our experience, some unexpected and unwanted weather conditions. Cold, grey and even wet, the usual clear blue skies were not ever present as we have come to expect, and a frustrating number of approach shots were missed totally owing to lack of sun. Still, on reflection, not a bad three days, given that the following photographs are only a small selection of the successful shots. Maybe Nellis spoils us most of the time.

Thanks to: Peter Rolt for the Red Flag info on the 'Tailslides' web site; Steve Drew for callsign info; Don Logan for 'Mig Kill' facts in 'USAF F-15 Eagles'; the ever helpful guys on Mil-Spotters-Forum for identifying the anonymous Prowler.

Also underway at the same time was the separate Air Warrior exercise, which saw overseas participation from 3 Squadron RAF Harrier GR7s, operating alongside 111th Fighter Wing A-10s from the Pennsylvania ANG. The resident 57th Wing aircraft also flew regularly, with the aggressor F-16s of the 414th CTS flying as the Red Flag bad guys with 'Mig' callsigns. The weapons school F-15s and F-16s were believed to have been operating on their usual, non Flag connected ordnance delivery training missions.

A close in shot of B-52H 60-0010 on approach to Runway 21 Left. The bombers are typically amongst the last of the strike package to recover.
© Tim Hunter
EOS-5 70-200mm K64 350/f5.6

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