Without doubt I’m spending more and more time at RAF Mildenhall. With aircraft being able to do more and cuts to defence budgets the variety of aircraft is becoming less. Whilst RAF Mildenhall isn’t as busy as it once was it still has a good number of movements and some interesting visitors that aren’t often seen in the UK.
The Home Team
The locally based KC-135 Stratotankers were busy and 58-0100 was being used to fly practice approaches sporting its new nose art. 58-0100 is the airframe of the Commanding Officer of the 100 Air Refuelling Wing (ARW) and had the artwork added this year.
MC-130H Combat Talon II 88-1803 has also had a new marking placed on the side as well.
A NATO E-3A is a frequency visitor to the UK to make practice approaches . The two US Marine Hercules (one an older KC-130T and the other a newer KC-130J) were in to night stop after delivering parts to Farnborough for the MV-22 Ospreys based there for both the Farnborough Trade Show and RIAT.
The RC-135V and W variants are becoming a bit more of a common due to the dual crewing with the RAF (51 Squadron) and also as a stopover for aircraft rotation between the USA and the Mediterranean / Middle East but are still a nice catch. The sand covered tail is a big clue where this one has been operating.
A much rarer sight in the UK is the B-1B Lancer. Usually they are refuelled by the 100 ARW over the UK on their way to or from the US. This particular one diverted in after developing a problem in flight and being unable to continue onwards. Like the RC-135 the B-1B is also covered in a fine sand.
Two visitors from Germany in the form of a USAF C-21A practicing approaches and a US ARMY C-12J transport aircraft assigned to the Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe (SHAPE). The C-130H Hercules 70-1276 was on a delivery flight to the Polish Air Force. The markings on the side which should say Polish Air Force had the Polish crudely covered over along with the markings on the tail only leaving a partial serial of ‘1276’.
Carrying on the Hercules theme was two Turkish Air Force C-130Es that had night stopped. The Turkish have been making regular use of RAF Mildenhall as a stopover point recently. Along with a MC-130P Combat Shadow from the 7 SOS based at Eglin Air Force Base, Florida.
This Hawker Beechcraft King Air 350i arriving on the civilian registration of N8107F is registered to the US ARMY and appears to be at first glance to be a MC-12W Liberty with the hump on top and the canoe underneath but on closer inspection there are plates over the front opening on the canoe and the rear where the Wescam MX-15 camera would be fitted. It is also missing a number of aerials that should be on the tail under the door and a ‘lump’ forward of the door. Visible through one of the windows is a rack of equipment which does suggest the aircraft is fitted out for a role rather than being a passenger transport although I’ve been unable to work out what variant it is. The King Air has become very popular with air forces for specialised roles, especially with the US, and this could yet be another hybrid.
The highlight of my three visits in July was the AC-130U 89-0513. The aircraft had arrived on the 7th and are usually turned around quickly after a crew rest period as they the type is in high demand but this particular airframe didn’t leave until 17 days later of the 24th. The reason for such an extended stay is unclear although it was crewed and radio tested on a number of times and had an engine run which may point to a technical fault that kept it here for the period.