Red Flag Week 1 & Green Flag(week 1?), July 13-15, 2009
by Hankmann

July 13th, 0700

Click to enlargeHeading North on I-15 to Nellis. The trip started with major rubber necks due to multiple accidents and road construction. Time to Nellis from Sarah, 1 hr. Really, we exited I-15 maybe 2 miles into the trip and took Las Vegas Blvd. to the base. After noting a huge, really huge, amount of fighters on the tarmac we hustled out of Vegas enroute to Rachel.

As we approached Rte. 93 exit, 2 F-22s were in landing pattern for Nellis. Couldn't tell tail markings as we were making the most of the Nv. speed limit.

As 93 turned through the mountains, we caught glimpse of 2 fighters heading towards Nellis, the mountains blocked our view and we never figured out what they were.

Alamo and Ash Springs seemed to fly by, gassing up at the later for the trip into Rachel.

The Rte 375, ET. Hghwy turn off had 4 cars parked in it. Being first timers to the area, we snapped some pics of the sign and continued on our way.

Now, I hope I am not showing my ignorance here, but there was no mention of the desert beauty on the way to Rachel. The Wildlife Refuge in Alamo, the awesome vistas with the mountain backdrops, that alone would be enough to warrant this trip to be taken by anyone that has a thirst for south western landscapes. Being in a rush to get to Rachel, we took no pictures. Something I am regretting as I write this.

Climbing the mountain pass which would dump us into the Tikaboo Valley, we totally blew by and missed "Horny's", tho we saw the painted rock which showed the way. Please note that this is a major place to observe the valley flights. This is the area to access Powerlines Overlook. It is just before you reach the summit and begin the descent into Tikaboo Valley. Too easy to pass, as we found out.

Click to enlargeRte 375 takes a great path to the valley floor. On our way down we saw 2 more fighters, F-15s heading out of the valley in formation. Too high to tell tail markings.

This is where the newness and excitement takes over/ruins the trip. For whatever reasons still unknown to me, all of my research and preparing went right out the window. I forgot or ignored just about everything from DLR website and only wanted to reach the Lil Aleinn. Having stopped there, talked with some of the people inside, all of which were overly accommodating, we purchased some shirts and souvenirs and headed to Cedar Pipeline Ranch.

Cedar Pipeline Ranch seems to be a great location to observe flights from. However today, there was a haze or fog hanging over the valley to the North of Rachel. Rachel was perfect with blue skies and 83 degrees. The further North we traveled the worse the haze/fog became. We drove to the ranch site and sat for an hour or so. It was 1030 and we figured we'd see some activity. We did not.

We backtracked passed Rachel back into Tikaboo Valley, stopped at the black mailbox, which if you are not looking for you'd miss it. Drove to the main gate road, Groom Lake Road. On the road, just before the ranch turn off, heavy truck traffic was encountered. They were 18 wheelers, 3 box trailers, 3 flatbeds with the contents under cover. They were heading into the base. Seeing as something was happening we decided not to travel to the boundary. Why push luck?

Click to enlargeWe back tracked again past Rachel to Warms Springs. My "co-pilot" and I both became overcome with being new out here and screwed up just about everything. We were heading to Warm Springs to fill up and then were going to go sit on Powerlines Overlook. Only problem is Warm Springs isn't the "Springs" with gas, that's Ash Springs.

So, being the Area 51 fan, I decided to travel to Tonopah rather than backtracking again to Ash Springs.

Was a nice ride, more desert beauty, a National Forest tho we saw no trees, just medium sized bush like plants. One goat. And the main gate to TTR with much pictured rocket to mark it.

Tonopah is a nice town. Very freindly people. After the fill up of gas and food, a little gaming at the Ramada, we set off for Vegas on Rte. 95.

Most of the drive was uneventful until we came upon the Nevada Test Range. 4 fighters were leaving the area, too far ahead of use to make out what they were.

Just after Mercury, 2 Huey's looked to be going to NTR or in that direction.

Long story with no major results, but hopefully this will help a little for anyone else totally new to the area. The desert and your own excitement can ruin/alter your plans. I have zero regrets for Day one and would do it again.

July 14th, Day Two of Red Flag

Click to enlargeHaving done the "Area 51" loop the day before, we felt we knew what and where to go. I had another location to plane spot and figured today we'll try that location, Delamar Lake(Texas Lake) dry lakebed.

Nothing was witnessed at all to the lakebed. It was as if they excercise had been canceled. We had a few discussions on where the lake bed was, seeing as there are no signs stating "Delamar Lake". Being tourists from Ohio, signs are something we have gotten too used to, I am ashamed to say. We blew by the entire Delmar Valley and Range. Stopping from time to time for 30 mins to an hour to watch the skies. Ended up turning around when we reached Caliente. Filled up, headed back.

This time on Rte 93 the driver(me) did not miss the sign for Delamar. From Rte 93 facing West, there seems to be 2 lake beds, one north, one south. The one to the North is mostly likely Delamar Lake, as we drove to the one to the South and never did find it. We figured it was a mirage rather than a lake bed.

While we were on the road East of the road going to Delamar, we heard plenty of fighters screaming overhead somewhere. Saw nothing. Even when using field galsses didn't catch a thing. As we drove back to Rte. 93 the thunder continued. WE paused for a moment to think about crossing 93 and searching for the Lake bed ahead of us, but already doing 800 miles in 2 days took it's toll. We headed back to Nellis.

Stopping at 375 turnoff, we saw a few contrails from dogfights in the distance and heard some more thunder. Saw a tanker heading towards Nellis which lead us to continue there rather than to Tikaboo Valley.

Arriving at Nellis(LVMS) it was as if the pilots knew we were searching for them. 1 fighter every 30 secs were taking flight. F16s and F15s. It was 1500. Was a good end to a good day.

July 15th, Day 3, final day for the trip

Click to enlargeSince we were splitting this trip between the Air Force and gaming. We had breakfast, gambled, then headed to Nellis around 1200. I decided to go to the "spotters" location off of Cheyenne as I had been there before learning it was a prime spot for viewing.

This is THE spot for viewing. Both runways are "crossing" the road. Whichever is active, you can be directly underneath of the fighters as they depart. Or inbound depending on winds I guess. Too many planes to list, but to my enjoyment, 3 F22s were caught. First time for me viewing them. It was a great scene seeing them lift into the Nevada sky. The power they have is immense and a tad surprising. Here we met a local who tipped us off that at 1500 and 2100 they are launching Green Flag. He too was confused with Red Flag, but settled that it is a strange occurrence to be having both at the same time.

2100 with less money to weigh us down, the night ops began. If you go to Vegas to see fighters, you must go to this area and see night launches. Once again, being from Cleveland where no military base is within easy drive, and none as active, I was speechless watching the fighters take flight with full afterburner flames visible. It was worth the trip to see that. First the tankers took flight, 3, then alternating F 16s and F 15s in groups of 3 each. We were there for a little over an hour then decided to help the Vegas community out by donating some cash via the slot machines at the Cannery.

In short, I hope I didn't ramble too long.

I find some important lessons were learned on this maiden venture.

Thanks to DLR for all the info for this trip. It was the best time I have had in Vegas yet, and can't wait to the next Red Flag !

Hankmann


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