My family and I planned a last minute trip to see Red Flag in Rachel this past week. Timing was everything for the entire trip. First, we needed to be in Rachel on Sunday evening so that my kids could be at their online schools Monday morning first thing.
Monday morning saw us enter our routine for the remainder of the week. We stayed in our 5th wheel at the Ale Le Inn. Breakfast was served and their bunks were traded out for their computer desks. The 1300 Red Flag offering was very fast and very high. Few Aggressors and very little Blue radio traffic. The night show was a little better, a few sonic booms, a few more players. The B1s rocked it with afterburner screaming off the range. Single aircraft traffic on Ramrod late at night with a quick mission. Id say less than an hour. Snoopy 01 callsign.
Tuesday we did our trek into Alamo to refuel and get some miscellaneous items. Local players high again. Back in Rachel, the 1300 Flag was still high but again an increase in Players and booms. But the night show was real good. Still high players, but the booms were better and the traffic was better. The mission was completely different from the night before. It was centered on strike missions, which seemed to increase the amount of players using afterburners to get off the range. Also the night of the meteor shower. Darkest skies Iíve ever seen. Great shows. Again good booms, and great Blue Force Comms. Another quick Ramrod mission after midnight.
Wed was again a high show and the night was not as good as the night before.
There was an early morning Mission on Thursday. Ramrod was calling out altitudes between 4,ooo and 13-5. Aircraft sounded like an F-35 with its background noise. Made a low fast pass over Rachel. Couldnít even get out of the covers time it was gone. Went up to Cedar Gate for the Flag. Saw one low level 15 and a fellow plane spotter and mil air monitor by the cow pen. Also found the F-117 memorial by the range boundary. My son in the picture was hoping to see a 117. We had been getting excited with all of the recent sittings. The Thursday night Flag was awesome. Lots of fighters and Strike Fighters. Also the B-1s. Good light show, great booms. At Midnight Ramrod started working with someone. By Joergís account, it was Rat55. I never clearly heard a callsign. He did make a 0700 pass over Rachel.
Here is where once again timing is everything. I needed to get home by Friday evening. My son needed to be on a zoom session at 1245. So, we couldnít stay in Rachel so I made arrangements to pull into the RV resort at Tonopah Station so we could be headed home but my son could do his schooling. We pulled into Tonopah at 1230. I set him up on his computer and swear I heard Knight 1 on Nellis Track headed for the tanker. I told him I thought I heard a 117. I headed towards the south end of the parking lot and then heard Mig 1 in the tanker. I was confused so I went back and told him never mind. I headed back to where I could see the tanker coming and low and behold, in the viewfinder I saw 6 planes on the tanker and ant least 2 were F-117s. I ran to get him as Knight 1 and 2 said they were going to depart the tanker low and to the east. I could not believe it. I grabbed him and we ran back to the perch. I felt so bad for him as I didnít get the shot as I didnít know what button io mistakenly hit but it said no shot available. I had my wife fix it. As I was telling him I blew his opportunity, we heard the noise. Looked up, and saw two 117s headed to the range. We both had tears in our eyes. I was able to snap a few shots off. He hugged me and said thank you. See, when my wife was pregnant with him, I was off on the hill overlooking the TTR with Joerg and a few others. I could only tell him how cool the plane was and of my history viewing and listening to them. Then, to our surprise, Knights 3 and 4 said they were exiting the tanker. How could this be? Four of them? They were a little further south and I havenít seen the pictures yet (havenít downloaded them). Mig 1 and 2 exited shortly after and headed to the range. The 117s where clearly supporting the aggressor mission. They switched to Baron with the migs. I heard them come back to the tanker but was not able to catch them. Still such a great trip.