Another trip to RAF Mildenhall in an attempt to catch the USAF CV-22B Ospreys that had deployed there. The four are pictured above and that’s how they stayed all day so I spent the day shooting some of the local assests.
The Special Operations Squadron were flying again with the MC-130H Combat Talon II on the left hand side and the MC-130P Combat Shadow on the right hand side. At first glance they look similar but they are different and carry out different roles. The Talon II had a larger and more square nose that contains a terrain mapping radar where as the Shadow has a smaller and more curved nose that contains a weather and navigation radar. The difference in radar setup is down to the primary roles each undertakes. The Talon II is tasked with getting special forces in and out of where they need to be. The terrain mapping radar combined with the FLIR (Forward Looking Infra Red) system allows the Talon II to fly very low, in poor weather or at night. It also has a more advanced defence suite with directed countermeasures. The Shadow is tasked with providing air to air refuelling to special forces helicopters and tiltrotor aircraft in combat environments as well as resupply missions and CSAR (Combat Search And Rescue). Both types can carried out each other roles if needed.
The signs of the US support of the UN resolution against Libya were visible with a regular stream of KC-135 air to air refuellers leaving and arriving under the EXXON call sign. To support the fighter aircraft from the various European countries the KC-135s have to be modified to be able to support the ‘drogue and probe’ refuelling system. The USAF use the alternative system of refuelling via a ‘boom’ for their fighter aircraft and therefore all their tankers are in this configuration. The tankers are fitted with either a drogue basket conversion (fits into the boom and can be seen trailing behind) or under wing MPRS pods which provide a drogue basket.
I also managed to catch an AC-130U gunship departing ‘east’. It was one of the two I caught in my last visit but I was limited to the side without the guns on this time but it did give a better view of the large observation window on the side with a crewman sat in it, well, observing!.