As part of remaining qualified on an aircraft a pilot needs to practice a number of key skills. Practice approaches and landings form a part of this and to get the best value these skills need to be practiced away from the familiar airfield where the pilot is based. Finding an airfield to accept an aircraft making multiple approaches can be difficult as preference is always given to locally based aircraft.
Thursday 28th Feburary was a quiet day for RAF Mildenhall with one visiting KC-135 leaving and two locally based KC-135s leaving when the four TF33 Pratt & Whitney 100A turbofan engines of the E-3A Sentry announced its arrival as it performed an overshoot. The E-3 AWAC LX-N90456 of the NATO Airborne Early Warning & Control Force was making the most of the quiet airfield to make a series of practice radar and visual approaches. Whilst the 30 ft diameter of the radar rotodome mounted on top of the E-3 is the most visually striking aspect of the aircraft it is the engines that make the most impression. The TF33 engines are 24 dB louder than the CFM56 engines fitted to both the locally based KC-135 and the E-3D variant used by the RAF. The engines are also produce considerably more smoke as you can see from the photos. In these modern times of cleaner and quieter aircraft it’s great to see a slice of 70s bashing the circuit.
NATO E-3A Sentry
NATO E-3A Sentry LX-N90456
USAF MC-130H Combat Talon II
Following a quick test flight the MC-130H Combat Talon II of the 7th Special Operations Squadron returned to the airfield to pick up ‘jumpers’. The MC-130H is used for infiltration, exfiltration, and resupply of Special Forces in hostile territory. Parachuting from the MC-130 is one technique used to infiltrate and training flights are conducted to practice and qualify these skills several times a year.
USAF MC-130H 87-0024
USAF HH-60G Pave Hawk
Another asset making use of the Mildenhall to practice approaches was the HH-60G Pave Hawk from nearby RAF Lakenheath. The Pave Hawk is a Combat Search and Rescue (CSAR) helicopter of the US Air Force. A member of the pararescue crew with a red cross worn on his uniform looks on, probably wondering who the idiot with a telephone lens is.
USAF HH-60G Pave Hawk 89-26206