I almost had to cancel my trip up to MAFEX at the KENO airstrip due to some trouble with my HUMMER H3. Like it's differential ceasing up and causing the drive train to break away and fall to the ground! But I say when life hands you lemons, pour some taquila shots and bite those lemons with a grain of salt! Actually, my wife really let me get a rental car and drive up just for the day instead of the 4 days I was planning to spend in Rachel for my favorite Air Force Exercise! When I left Las Vegas this morning I had some reservations. It was very very hazy like it gets when California is on fire. I knew some were burning in Arizona and found out it was Northern Nevada. It started to clear up somewhere around Alamo. Then the wind kicked in and the haze blew clear for the exercise.
Not having my HUMMER, I couldn't go to the normal MAFEX vista North of the airstrip. Instead, I took up a vantage spot just before Cedar Gate at: 37 44.604N, 116 12.961W. I got to Cedar Gate around noon straight up. I could see a lot of activity on the KENO airfield as well as a Roland RADAR site just inside the gate as well as what I think was one just to the North of me on the powerline access road. Just after 12:30 a double boom caught my attention. Probably a sonic boom echoing off the nearby hills. Just after that the Cedar Gate Roland headed into the Range via Cedar Gate. Two Jollies came in from the East and landed near the runway. I could hear air combat high above and occasionally see contrails zooming around upstairs.
While watching those contrails I got buzzed very low by two A-10s as they "pounded" the airfield and the Roland and other RADAR Sites inside Cedar Gate. It was the first time I saw them pop flares so low to the ground. One less than 100 feet off the deck! I could see them bounce off the ground! This went on for a good while with many many passes. I would not want to be on the receiving end of those two Warthogs!
While the A-10s were softening up KENO, I could see a bunch of black dots to the North. Here comes the "THUGs!" The first group was (11) C-17s all in a row . The first few dropped some heavy gear then they all turned East and headed out of sight. The next group were (13) C-130s and they dropped about two dozen Airborne. Wow, bonus! The C-130s also departed to the East but a bit lower and they seemed to weave in between the smaller mountains around Black Top Peak at 37° 47.156'N, 115° 55.994'W. Next came another wave of (14) C-130s that just did a fly by over the airfield then departed same as the first two formations.
Shortly after, the A-10s flew over the runway which I assumed was sort of an "airshow" for the Paratroopers. Things quieted down but I decided to hang around and watch the support vehicles mop up, I had nothing better to do! Also, I was hoping to catch support vehicles drive by with maybe the Airborne on it. They had to depart the area somehow -right? Over the scanner I heard Nellis Control warn a JANET that (9) C-130s were going below him in route to Creech AFB. The JANET pilot chuckled as he replied. About a half hour after the last fly by, I spotted two C-17s inbound. This time they had their gear down and landed around 2:45pm. They departed at 3:15pm with the last one Popping it's "Angel Flares" just as I shut my camera off! I immediately threw the lens cap to the ground and switched it back on. I'm surprised it was still in focus as putting the lens cap on should have knocked it out of whack! I was so bummed I missed the shot. But I saw it with my naked eyes so that was way cool too instead of thru the view finder. I caught some smoke on that picture. The vehicles were still on the ground so I hung around longer. Two more C-17s inbound to land. Then they took off. Then 4 single ship missions to land. One they reversed the direction of the runway so he took off right by me. Another kept cutting his Base Leg short and had to do two go-arounds before touching down on the third attempt. On the last single mission they loaded up some support and he took off at 5:15pm. He popped his flares too so I got my shot. Yes!
The NOTAM read: LARGE FORCE EXERCISE IN PROGRESS. It should have read: RED FLAG ON STEROIDS!!! Nearly five hours of nonstop action! What a show!!! During Red Flag, you catch little bits each day if your lucky. MAFEX, you get to witness almost the entire exercise all from one location. The next MAFEX exercise is in November. Hopefully it will be another day mission and not a night one like last November's exercise...