2016 was a good year for me. I saw many types in quite a few different locations around the world. Join me as I guide you through my year of military aviation. All images are copyright to Alan Kenny.
First stop of the year was at a chilly RAF Lakenheath. The F-15E Strike Eagles were very busy, flying up until dusk. But didn’t fly during sunset. Shame. A trip to Washington DC gave me the opportunity to visit the Maryland Air National Guard, a short drive away. I didn’t know if I was going to see any action, but the A-10s came good. Cold, but productive day.
Month two took me to the land of the rising sun, Japan. I’ve been to Hyakuri Air Base twice before, but this third time was the best by far. Lots of action and lots of different angles. Love it there! I visited RAF Marham for the second time, this one being better than the first due to more Tornados being home from operations. Plus I had a better camera and lens combo this time. Nice to see the Goldstars special scheme do quite a number of circuits.
A standby trip took me to Israel. I hired a bike and rode down the coast. I was pleased to find Dov Hoz Airport was busy with IDF assets. Love the sand colours Blackhawk. I decided to take a day out to RAF Lakenheath. I just went for a day out. To my surprise, three Polish F-16s visited and one of them was a specially marked Tiger tail. Shame it was gloomy for their arrival, but had the sun been out, they’d have been backlit. As usual the F-15Cs put on a great show.
I knew the F-22 Raptors were in town. They were on an exercise from Tyndall AFB, Florida. RAF Lakenheath was heaving with spotters everywhere. I timed my visit to coincide with 06 operations and some sun. Loved the results. I went over to neighbouring RAF Mildenhall in the afternoon and was fortunate with seeing my first C-5M, along with based MC-130Js and RC-135. The POTUS visit later in the month took me back and it was really good to see the Presidential Ospreys for the first time. Very smart.
I visited Fort Worth, Texas for the first time. It was grey and overcast, but thankfully not raining. VMFA-112 Cowboys F/A-18 Hornets flew as a pair and a few T-38 fly throughs from Sheppard AFB and Randolph AFB. A stop at Alliance Airport gave me the chance to see a couple of T-6 Texan His taxiing. Next was up to NAS Whidbey Island, Washington on the Pacific Northwest. Also my first visit. I’d heard it was a quiet base, but didn’t find that. It was very busy with most squadrons flying, including the EP-3E.
Oddly June was my quietest month. Not sure why that was, but I only got to RAF Fairford, Gloscestershire the once to see the B-52s which were there for work in the Czech Republic. I had hoped to get there to see the B-1s, but they’d left before I got chance to see them. Big shame as I’ve only seen them at airshows before.
Hog time! Whiteman AFB A-10s were over at RAF Leeming for a while in July and I made the drive up to see them. The sun was shining and the pilots were very friendly. Love those jets. I fly to Atlanta from standby and visited Dobbins ARB in Marietta. Great to see the C-130Hs still in action.
I went back to Dobbins to do an interview for Combat Aircraft Magazine. That article is still in progress, so I’ve only included images not accosted with it. Nice to see my first Wright-Patterson C-17 visit whilst I was there. Next I went to Philadelphia, and drove over the border to Delaware. I visited the Air Mobility Command museum and took photos of the visitors from there. Sadly the runways were being repaired, so the C-5s were at McGuire, NJ. A stop in at RAF Mildenhall on the way home resulted in a long CV-22B Osprey conducting fast rope practice. The month ended with a visit to RAF Cosford for the final running of RAF Jaguars. Amazing day with superb access. Just a shame about the end result.
My only visit to RAF Coningsby came in September. Although I do love the Typhoon, I seem to be more in love with Eagles, as I visited RAF Lakenheath again for four F-15Ds on delivery to the Israeli Air Force. I also went to RAF Mildenhall twice. On the first visit I saw my first RAF RC-135 and on the second, my first Turkish Air Force A400M. To finish of the month I returned to NAF Whidbey Island again and neighbouring NOLF Coupeville. The SAR MH-60R was great to see there and again, NASWI was busy!
Back to RAF Lakenheath. This time to see the autumn colours on the trees. Nine times out of ten, Lakenheath delivers. I went back to Dobbins in Georgia and saw a C-130J & C-5M on test flights. Love those FREDs! My only airshow of 2016 was in Forth Worth. It was held at Alliance Airport and was fantastic! I photographed a number of aircraft at sunset/sunrise, plus I met the US Navy Tac Demo team. I also travelled to Fort Worth again after the airshow. Whilst there I’d heard an Israeli F-35 would be doing a test flight. Sadly this didn’t happen. Luckily a VMFA-121 F-35B did a few fly bys.
My fourth visit of the year to Dobbins was in November. To get more material for the article, I was allowed back on base to shoot the wing at work. A nice visit from a Pittsburg C-130H made for some good images. My final overseas aviation visit was to NAS Lemoore. This was to do an article on the US Navy Tac Demo team for my website. This is still in progress, but will hopefully complete soon.
The year ended where it began, RAF Lakenheath. The light was excellent and the base was very busy. The visit was topped off by a C-17 from McChord AFB, Washington performing an almost fighter style approach. All in all, a superb year!