The view from my perch on the mountain

Archive for June 27, 2011

Birds of a Different Feather

One of the things we had to adjust to when we moved from Virginia Beach to the Blue Ridge Mountains was not hearing aircraft overhead all day. Virginia Beach is one of seven cities in the region surrounding Hampton Roads, home to the largest concentration of military installations in the Continental United States. With the US Air Force’s Air Combat Command headquartered at Langley Air Force Base in Hampton and the US Navy’s Master Jet Base located at Naval Air Station Oceana in Virginia Beach the sound of jet engines overhead was just part of the background noise, as natural as birds singing and sirens wailing as emergency vehicle rush to the scene of yet another fender bender, especially during tourist season.

Learning that an aircraft carrier air wing was due to arrive Frankie and I loaded up the truck and headed for a good vantage point outside the security fence at Oceana. Apparently we missed the mass flyover (troop and unit movement details are closely guarded while we are at war so there was no way to get an accurate arrival time) but I did manage to give my long lens a workout while standing on Godzilla’s running board shooting over the roof of the truck…..and the fence.

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The shot above and next 4 are F/A18 Super Hornet fighter bombers.

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These next two are E2C Hawkeye, or Hummer, airborne warning and control aircraft. When I was single one of my roommates, Mad Max McAllister flew as a radar operator in these operating off nuclear powered aircraft carriers USS Nimitz and USS Carl Vinson.

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While we were out roaming around we decided to see what there was to shoot at the piers of Naval Station Norfolk. This was a spur of the moment decision and Frankie and I were armed so we knew there was no chance of getting on the base. Instead we parked at the Willoughby Spit Municipal Boat Ramp a few hundred yards across Willoughby Bay from the base.

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MH-53E Sea Dragon mine countermeasure helicopters. While Mad Max was flying Hawkeyes my unit operated with the US Air Force version known as Pave Low and nicknamed Super Jolly Green Giant. Our birds were configured for Combat Search and Rescue and other Special Operations missions.

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USS Iwo Jima amphibious assault ship. While similar to aircraft carriers these ships are smaller and are used to transport and insert United States Marines. In addition to helicopters and AV8-B Harrier jump jets, they carry the new V-22 Osprey tilt rotor aircraft and LCAC air cushion vehicles.

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Unidentified Nimitz class aircraft carrier. What a contrast in technology between the two vessels in this shot!

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Security at Naval Station Norfolk isn’t as lax as it is at NAS Oceana. I had only been shooting for a few minutes when this SH-60 Seahawk lifted off, crossed the bay and I found a crewman aiming a lens even bigger than the one I was using in my direction. We took this as our cue to go find something else to take photos of…..like GU-11 UAV (unmanned aerial vehicles):

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