Red Flag 18-02 - Star Wars Canyon (03/12/2018 - 03/14/2018)
 

Photos taken in Rainbow Canyon in Death Valley, aka "Star Wars Canyon" during Red Flag 18-2.

The best view spots are:

36 21.278'N / 117 33.694'W: Head on view of jets diving into the canyon, still above the rim, then belly shot when aircraft bank left to dive into the canyon

36 21.324'N / 117 32.583'W: Aircraft still banking left when approaching, then level out for a prefect sideways shot below the canon rim. My favorite

36 21.557'N / 117 32.119'W: Aircraft low and level well below the canyon rim, then slightly banking right for a view into the cockpit. Most aircraft pull up when exiting the canyon

All of these view spots are a very short, easy walk from the road. There are small pull-outs along the highway near #1 and 3, but they fill up on busy days.

#2 is a short easy drive on a dirt road. Any car can make it but watch out for the steep drop when getting onto the dirt road at the paved overlook. Take a wide turn to avoid ground contact if you don't have high clearance. The last photo below shows #2 seen from the paved "Father Crowley Overlook".

Tune your scanner to 315.90 MHz. Aircraft announce they are entering Star Wars Canyon, usually heading west to east. This is also referred to as the "Jedi Transition", a shortcut between points Charlie and Juliet of a larger pattern.

There is a mountain range to the west blocking line of sight of the approaching aircraft so you don't always hear the radio call. Listen for a sudden increase in engine noise from the west. It seems aircraft light the burners or accelerate when entering the transition near point Charlie.

This article has a good map that shows the transition.


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Eurofighter Typhoon FGR4 of the 41(TES)sq, Royal Air Force, UK
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USAF F-16D-30-CF of the 134th FS "Green Mountain Boys", Burlington Air National Guard Base, VT

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US Navy F/A-18F of the Strike Fighter Squadron 122 (VFA-122) "Flying Eagles" at NAS Lemoore
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US Navy EA-18G "Growler" of the Air Test and Evaluation Squadron Nine (VX-9) "Vampires" at China Lake, CA

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US Navy F/A-18F of the Strike Fighter Squadron 122 (VFA-122) "Flying Eagles" at NAS Lemoore
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US Navy F/A-18F of the Strike Fighter Squadron 154 (VFA-154) "Black Knights" at NAS Lemoore

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US Navy EA-18G "Growler" of the Air Test and Evaluation Squadron Nine (VX-9) at China Lake, CA
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US Navy EA-18G "Growler" of the Air Test and Evaluation Squadron 31 (VX-31) "Dust Devils" at China Lake, CA

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10-5019: Royal Netherlands Air Force F-35A-2A "Lightning II", tail code F-002

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15-5118: USAF F-35A-3I of the 31st Test and Evaluation Squadron (31 TES) at Edwards AFB, CA
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15-5121: USAF F-35A-3I of the 422nd Test and Evaluation Squadron (422 TES) at Nellis AFB, NV

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One of three view spots along Star Wars Canyon seen from Father Crowley Overlook along CA Hwy 190


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