Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Warthog Staredown

The A-10 Thunderbolt II, aka the Warthog, is not long on beauty, but it's a pistol-packin' mama the ground-pounders love. The business end of the beast is the GAU-8 30mm cannon in the chin of the airplane. Like the proverbial iceberg, the majority of the 7-barrel rotating cannon's bulk is hidden in the body of the airplane. In truth the whole package, including ammo drum, is the size of an old Volkswagen Beetle.

This A-10 was shot at the 2010 ISAP visit to Nellis AFB. The plane is ready to taxi out to the runway after being cleared at the Last Chance station where all systems are given a final check and all Remove Before Flight pins and flags are pulled. The nose gear is off-set to one side while the cannon is shifted slightly to the other. This is so the firing of each barrel can be at the 9:00 position relative to the barrel's face, but located on the centerline of the aircraft. Centerline firing is important as having asymmetric recoil of that magnitude would not be a good thing.

Two other factoids, the GAU-8 fires ammunition containing a core of depleted Uranium which allows it to penetrate tank armor with devastating effect, and the rate of fire is 3,900 rounds per minute. Since the drum only holds 1,075 rounds, short bursts are necessary.

There is a story of an A-10 shooting down an Iraqi helicopter with its gun during Operation Desert Storm. Since air-to-air kills are rare for most strike aircraft, especially an A-10, the pilot must have gotten excited and unloaded a longer than normal burst on the chopper. It literally shredded the vehicle into lots of little, tiny pieces of metal. Ouch.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Raptor Heat

It was very interesting watching the F-22s take-off from Nellis AFB during the recent ISAP visit to the base. This, of course, was in the midst of the recent Red Flag exercises. To begin with, we had no restrictions from shooting the airplanes on the ramp, taxi way, last chance or End of Runway (EOR). That meant we could take pictures from the rear quarter, which is unusual. They get very twitchy about that at Edwards AFB.

Secondly, the Edwards take-offs we've seen involves the use of afterburner. This is because it's usually during an Open House and they want to do a maximum performance routine to wow the crowd. Plus, it's a lot more spectacular than a standard, non-afterburner take-off. The two Pratt & Whitney F119-PW-100 turbofan engines put out 35,000 lbs thrust each in afterburner, but only 23,500 each without, so there is a big difference.

In any event, the Nellis launches were without afterburner. The result was predictably not as impressive (no flame out the nozzles) nor as loud, but it was impressive and loud enough. The angle above did provide a nice visual with the hot exhaust gases blurring the Nellis tower in shimmering ripples of heat. Note also the narrowing of the nozzle lips to constrict the opening to create more thrust. Ah, physics; 'ya gotta love it!

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Raptor Eye

The Head's Up Display (HUD) is a staple of modern fighter aircraft. Designed so a pilot can monitor instruments, flight conditions and targeting solutions while keeping his eyes outside of the cockpit is a major element in maintaining what is called "situational awareness," e.g. knowing what's going on around you and your wingman.

The HUD projects all the important data onto a flat pane of glass with a ghostly green light. Seen on the F-22 above, it is quite visible in daylight. What I like about this shot is that it reminds me of a Cylon from the original "Battlestar Galactica" tv series, except the eye beam is green instead of red. I can almost hear the plane say, "by your command!"

The mood is enhanced by the tight shot on the canopy. The plane really looks otherworldly at this point.

The shot was taken during the recent ISAP convention outing to Nellis AFB and the Red Flag exercise in operation at the time.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Talon Roost

We're slowly but surely getting the new computer up to speed. I finally managed to get the email contacts and folders transferred over, along with my Firefox favorites. Life is getting better.

I shot this T-38 in the (relatively) new sunshades at Edwards AFB during the recent ISAP convention. Normally I don't like sunshades because aircraft look better in sunlight. But I can certainly understand the desire of the maintenance crews to avoid working in the hot sun of the high desert.

So, like photographers the world over, you make do. Or as one person said, if life hands you a lemon, make lemonade.

There is an interesting quality to the light and reflections in the series of photos I did that day. Even the shades themselves produce interesting patterns and shapes that add texture to the images. But it seems to work better in tight shots like this. While not the best for documentary work, they do give the creative juices a stir. All in all, it was fun and worthwhile.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Down Unna Hornet Burn

So much for increased regularity. The computers are still temperamental and not talking to each other well. We'll need to call the geek out again. Oh, well....

At least I have my airplanes. The neat thing about a Red Flag is the opportunity to shoot foreign air forces on U.S. soil. Not just the occasional one or two that may pop up at a local open house, but a squadron's strength worth of airplanes. In this case airplanes from three RAAF squadrons were mixed together to form the travel unit. This one has just lit his afterburner (reheat in British parlance) and is starting his take-off roll. It was another "Aaaaahhh!" moment at the Nellis EOR.

I love the smell of JP-5 in the smells like - airplanes!

Monday, March 8, 2010

Red Flag Eagle

Well, that was a long haitus. Sorry about that, but we got a new computer and the connectivity issues between the old machine and the new were many and are not quite resolved yet...but we're getting there. Add to that my five days in Las Vegas for the International Society of Aviation Photography convention and I'm really behind in posting. But the good thing is I have lots of new airplane photos, of which I'll be posting several over the next few days - I hope. The computer geek comes by tomorrow to finish the job - again, I hope - so I should be good to go after that.

Regardless, this is a shot of a 65th Aggressor Squadron F-15 Eagle in a beautiful sand and brown camouflage. I normally don't get that excited about Eagles, but this scheme and the blue one worn by the 65th birds look so cool!

Yes, we got to shoot a Red Flag as part of the convention. As I've mentioned before, a Flag encompasses the most intense action outside of an actual war zone. The Aggressors, including the Eagle here, were getting ready to launch during the exercise, along with the multitudes of Blue Forces that would fly against them. It was almost a solid two hours of choreographed movement punctuated by fire and thunder. Yes, it was heaven.