Second Part of my March Red Flag Trip Report to Tempiute Valley, 3-9-2009 to 3-13-2009
by Alan Gudaitis

Click to enlargeAlthough my March Red Flag trip to Tempiute Valley had a dearth of low level action flying as I like to call it, I did have some very interesting adventures and occurrences in a sort of oblique way.

Stumbling across the Patriot Missile Battalion was certainly the highlight of my trip, but the last week really showed me some strange behavior going on above me.

As some of you know by now, I camp out in my RV just off the ET highway in Tempiute Valley, not far from Coyote Pass. I am always looking for different perspectives to photograph aircraft.

Monday, the 9th I heard a pair of F-15s fly over heading for Coyote Summit. I grabbed my camera and went outside; this was about 12:45 PM. As I watched them fly toward the summit the leader quickly banked sharply to the left before the summit turning around heading back toward my. This action was followed by the second jet. They flew toward my RV and flew around me in a steep banking turn as my photos will show. I usually try and wave and take photos at the same time which causes me to take many blurred photos, but I always do it as a sign of respect and acknowledgement, regardless of what their intention might be. When you view my photos you'll see how steeply they banked, and the thin streaming contrails off the wingtips made for an excellent photo. I never reposition my photos for visual effect. You see them the way I do, except for some enlargements and exposure enhancements.

Click to enlargeWell interestingly enough, after circling me, I thought they would fly into the combat range where they were first heading, but they turned and went back the way they came in, i.e., towards the direction of Elgin or Texas Lake. They never did fly into the range. It seems they came in explicitly to check me out. I have never seen them maneuver around me like that before. It kind of makes me wonder a bit.

Another day I saw the AWAC(s) orbiting low, maybe 18-20,000ft or so, just a guess, but normally you never see them. Lone wolf has a really nice photo of one of them cruising overhead.

It gets cold in the desert in March, and I don't go outside to much unless I hear the scanner came alive.

Click to enlargeI think it was Thursday night the 12th, when I heard some planes flying over that I went outside to check out the sky. I happen to notice a very bright, white strobe light approaching from the East, and I watched it for over an hour as it orbited around the valley. It was flying slow, no prop or jet noise, very silent. I tried to catch a glimpse of it against the full Moon but never could. I would estimate it's average altitude at 14-15,000 ft. When it turned toward me it had more than the usual amount of wing lights and what appeared to be long wings, but that white strobe really stood out. I suspect it was either a Predator or Reaper preparing for an exercise, or other type of UAV (Maybe I was part of it) as it eventually headed for Dog Bone Lake at the Southern end of the valley. As soon as it went into that area I could see other aircraft lights through my binoculars, and then the scanner came alive with chatter. I could hear them talking about dropping their ordinance and counting the seconds, followed by bright glowing flashes of light as their bombs hit the target behind the mountain range. I also suspect there might have been some high level bombing going on at Dog Bone lake too, as usually it is an exercise area for the A-10s and low level air-ground exercises. It was an interesting night indeed.

On the one hand it was an exciting trip with my personal tour of the Patriot Missile Battalion and some very unusual air activity, yet on the other hand the actual incoming flights of low level aircraft was very dismal. On the average 24 hour day I am usually waiting for that 10-15 minutes daily total of good photographic material. Patience is everything out there.

But when it does happen, it is just awesome. I hope all of you get a chance to be out there in the desert for at least one Red Flag.

My Webshots link is:
http://news.webshots.com/album/570941881Bwsrtk

A couple of visits by some friends made the trip even more enjoyable. Thanks for stopping by.

Alan


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