Built by Rockwell, the B-1B Lancer is a swing-wing high-speed bomber intended for low-altitude penetration missions. It first flew 18 October 1984, with the U.S. Air Force ordering 100 aircraft, the first of which was delivered to the Air Force at Edwards Air Force Base from Palmdale in October 1984.
Initial delivery to Strategic Air Command took place in June 1985, at Dyess AFB, Texas. In 2003, the Air Force retired 33 B-1Bs and remove the aircraft from Mountain Home, and the Georgia and Kansas Air National Guard bases, with the remaining aircraft consolidated at Dyess AFB and Ellsworth AFB.
'Aussie, Aussie, Aussie'
Here's a typical example of how difficult it is to photograph aircraft in U.S. airshow static arenas. This F-16 Fighting Falcon had received a nicely painted special tail, and it would have been great to have it nicely positioned so as to obtain good photos - but the priority as always is to put barriers as close as possible so as to enable the public to get up-close and personal. Great for the kids, but oh so frustrating for me.
The F-16 Fighting Falcon has proven itself to be one of the world’s most successful combat aircraft, in service with over 25 different countries - the U.S. Air Force operating more F-16s than any other fighter. The F-16XL in the photo left, began life as the F-16 Supersonic Cruise and Maneuver Prototype (SCAMP), and General Dynamics invested heavily in research into this area – though this never moved beyond theoretical and model-based efforts. The F-16XL's cranked arrow wing resulted in greatly increased lift, General Dynamics partnering with NASA to work on the project, testing more than 150 configurations during 3600 hours of flight time.
In March 1981 the Air Force announced that it was looking for a replacement for the F-111 Aardvark, and so General Dynamics decided to enter the F-16XL into the competition, but the Air Force ultimately chose the F-15E Strike Eagle.
Known colloquially as the Bone (B-One), a B-1B performed a series of fly-bys at Aerospace Valley, showing off its variable geometry wings in both full-sweep and forward-swept wing modes. the last 30 years has taken a toll on the B-1 fleet due to overuse in a manner not in keeping with it’s planned design. Regularly cruising at 540 knots at 500 feet has worn the fleet out. The idea of using a B-1’s terrain-following radar and low-level capability to penetrate soviet air defence is no longer in its remit, and the B-1 is entering its twilight years. In 2021, a further 17 aircraft were slated for retirement, leaving just 27 in active service. The new Northrop Grumman B-21 Raider stealth bomber is expected to enter service around 2025, with the last B-1B expected to leave active duty service by 2036.
Not surprisingly, Lockheed Martin's F-35 Lightning II was prominent in the static arena, with the A, B and C-models all on display. A nice F-35C naval version from Air Test and Evaluation Squadron Nine (VX-9) Vampires, based at China Lake (top left); a Royal Air Force F-35B VSTOL version from 17 Squadron, which is embedded with 461st Flight Test Squadron at Edwards AFB (top right); and a prototype F-35A also from the 461 FLTS (bottom right) also based at Edwards AFB.
The U.S. Navy's VX-9 from China Lake had a number of aircraft at Aerospace Valley Air Show, this particular aircraft in the static display is a Boeing F/A-18F Super Hornet.
Air Test & Evaluation Squadron Nine - Detachment Edwards Air Force Base (VX-9 Det Edwards), is a Navy Operational Test unit that flies, maintains, and tests the F-35C Lightning II at Edwards AFB. VX-9 Det Edwards began flying the F-35C in 2017 and participated in the Initial Operational Test & Evaluation of the F-35 as part of the JSF Operational Test Team along with USAF, USMC, RAF, RNethAF, and RAAF.
VX-9 is charged with testing and evaluating weapons and related systems - the squadron operating numerous aircraft and helicopters of the United States Navy and United States Marine Corps.
Some of the best displays were flown by the Armstrong Flight Research Center based at Edwards. Seen left are a C-20A Gulfstream III, a F-15B Eagle and a F/A-18D Hornet borrowed from the U.S. Navy's VX-23 squadron, which has a detachment at Edwards. Performing a couple of flypasts, the trio then broke formation before continuing their displays. The main reason for their displays being amongst the best was the simple fact they were performed at a reasonable altitude and not a mile from the crowd line.
NF-15B N836NA (#74-0141) is one of the oldest Eagles in existence, and as the Research Test-bed, it continues to be an innovative and cost-effective tool for flight test of advanced propulsion concepts. The modified twin-engine jet aircraft provides NASA with long-term capability for the efficient flight test of aerodynamic, instrumentation, propulsion, and other flight research experiments. This aircraft is a unique airborne resource, and is considered by researchers to be a virtual flying wind tunnel and reliable supersonic test-bed. In addition to flying research missions, Armstrong's F-15B is also used for crew training, pilot proficiency, and safety chase-plane support for other research aircraft.
Organized by the resident 412th Test Wing, the event was the first open house at Edwards in 13 years - marking the 75th anniversary of the United States Air Force, and on the 14th October also marking 75 years of breaking the sound barrier in the skies above Edwards. The Aerospace Valley in which Edwards AFB resides, holds a unique place in military aviation - hundreds of historic firsts have called the airspace above California home, anchored by a combination of Edwards, Mojave Air & Space Port, and the USAF Plant 42 at Palmdale. It is where the Bell X-1 flight test team first broke the sound barrier on 14 October 1947, where the Bell X-15 probed the threshold of space and the NASA space shuttle first landed on its initial return from earth’s orbit. Today, its workforce is still at the cutting edge of aviation technology - developing, testing, and evaluating the newest weapon systems and aircraft for America’s airmen.
III with the 'Wings of Blue' Parachute Team on board. The C-17 was from the resident 418th Flight Test Squadron - later performing a solo demonstration of the aircraft. The C-17 is capable of rapid strategic delivery of troops and all types of cargo to main operating bases or directly to forward bases, and can perform tactical airlift and airdrop missions, and can transport litters and ambulatory patients during aeromedical evacuations.
If ‘fast and loud’ is your thing, then the Aerospace Valley Airshow at Edwards Air Force Base was right up your street. If getting great photos of rarely seen aircraft is your thing, then maybe the show turned out to be a little disappointing. Either way, over the weekend of the 15-16th October 2022, Edwards AFB became 'BOOMTOWN USA'.
Initially scheduled for 2020, the airshow at Edwards Air Force Base (AFB) had been cancelled due to the global pandemic and rescheduled for October 2022. As the first show at ‘Aerospace Valley’ since 2009, it attracted aviation enthusiasts from not only across the United States, but from around the world - billed as being “dedicated to showcasing the best of aviation.”
A surprise aircraft in the static display was this Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) KC-30A Multi-Role Tanker Transport - a heavily modified Airbus A330 airliner that provides air-to-air refuelling and a strategic airlift capability. Featuring advanced communication and navigation systems, and an electronic warfare self-protection system for shielding against threats from surface-to-air missiles, the RAAF has seven KC-30A based at RAAF Amberley, operated by 33 Squadron. The KC-30A-MRTT is fitted with two refuelling systems: an Advanced Refuelling Boom mounted on the tail of the aircraft and two electric refuelling pods under each wing, both controlled by an Air Refuelling Operator in the cockpit, who can view refuelling on 2D and 3D screens. The two systems allowing both boom and hose & drogue refuelling methods to be used.
The Darkstar full-scale model design saw the involvement of Lockheed Martin's Skunk Works, who brought together their expertise to have a realistic aircraft model with a working cockpit. The Darkstar in the movie is built around a turbine-based combined cycle propulsion system, with two low-bypass turbofan afterburning engines and two scramjets. The cockpit has no forward visibility, relying on a synthetic vision system to see what’s in front of the aircraft. The model used for filming was so accurate that China was reportedly fooled into believing that it was a real experimental aircraft and even reoriented a spy satellite to take photos of it.
and drogue system adds additional mission capability that is independently operable from the refuelling boom system - with fuel able to be pumped through the boom, drogue and wing aerial refueling pods.
KC-46 is finally starting to come on line in reasonable numbers, with some 60+ aircraft now in service. Providing greater refuelling, cargo and aeromedical evacuation capabilities compared to the KC-135 which it is replacing, the KC-46A provides next generation aerial refuelling for the Air Force, Navy, Marine Corps and partner-nation receivers.
At full operational capability, the KC-46A is able to refuel most fixed-wing, receiver-capable aircraft, and is equipped with a refueling boom capable of fuel offload rates required for large aircraft. Its hose
excuse for a flying display that is miles away from the crowd line and so high that you can hardly see the aircraft.
75 Years on and this is the future of air-to-air refuelling for the U.S. Air Force - Boeing's KC-46A Pegasus. Despite its short chequered history the
A number of aircraft sported the '2022 Aerospace Valley Air Show' emblem on them, including B-1B Lancer #86-0099 'Ruptured Duck'. This particular B-1B is the Edwards Aircraft Ground Integration Lab (EAGIL) static test aircraft - a program that saves taxpayers money by reducing the costs of developing electronic upgrades for aircraft, compared to using flying test-beds. The aircraft was named in 2017, on the 75th Anniversary of the Doolittle raid on Japan, in which one of the B-25 Mitchell bombers was named Ruptured Duck.
Edwards Air Force Base
15-16th October 2022
The airshow opened with a USAF Boeing C-17A Globemaster
A product of Lockheed Martin's 'Skunk Works', the legendary SR-71A Blackbird is normally on display at the Air Force Flight Test Center Museum at Edwards AFB, but was dragged to the static display for the airshow. Looking immaculate, #61-7955 first flew on 17 August 1965 and throughout its career, the aircraft served as the Palmdale test aircraft until being replaced by #61-7972 in 1985. Last flown on 24 January 1985, the aircraft accumulated less than 2000 hours of flight time.
NASA also displayed this Beech NT-34C Turbomentor (left) and C-20A Gulfstream III (right), both from the resident Armstrong Flight Research Institute
Walking through into the static display, the first aircraft to greet us was this Lockheed Martin F-22A Raptor from the 422nd Test & Evaluation Squadron (TES), based at Nellis AFB, Nevada. The early morning sun at 7.30am giving it a distinctive orange glow.
would have loved it, aircraft hurtling past in afterburner and lots of sonic booms! If you’re not interested in photography that much and just want to experience the sights and sounds of Edwards – a legendary place in aviation history, well so be it, but it didn't really 'hit' like I hoped it would. The media side of things was stress free, but I was really disappointed to not get a parade of jets down the flightline – something that has always happened at previous shows at Edwards, plus they only used the far runway, which is almost a mile from the crowd, and some of the really nice aircraft that were scheduled cancelled last minute. It sounds like future airshows at the base are pretty iffy now due to the imminent arrival of the B-21, but to be honest, based on this experience I’m not sure I’d be heading back in a hurry anyway.
As would be expected, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration - NASA, was heavily involved in both the static and flying displays at the Aerospace Valley Air Show. This F/A-18B Hornet being one of the oldest still flying anywhere in the world and still looking as young as ever as it basks in the California sunshine.
SOFIA allows researchers to observe from almost anywhere in the world, and enables studies of transient events that often take place over oceans where there are no telescopes. Astronomers on SOFIA have studied eclipse-like events of Pluto, Saturn’s moon Titan, and Kuiper Belt Object MU69, the next fly-by target for NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft, to study the objects’ atmospheres and surroundings. SOFIA is operated and maintained by NASA’s Armstrong Flight Research Center in Palmdale, with the Ames Research Center managing SOFIA's program, science and mission operations in cooperation with the Universities Space Research Association and the German SOFIA Institute.
Personally, I'd overdosed on KC-10s a couple of days earlier at Travis AFB, where I'd been fortunate enough to fly in one and spend some time photographing them on the ramps. Even so, it was great to see one in the static display, as they are gradually being withdrawn from service in favour of the KC-46A Pegasus, and are rarely seen at airshows in Europe.
Sadly, the airshow did not live up to expectations – well certainly not for me, nor many others that I know who attended. The disappointment was palpable amongst many on the Saturday, so much so that a number of people, me included, did not bother to attend on the Sunday, deciding not to endure the combination of the heat and the poor positioning of the flightline and flying display. It may sound very ungrateful and I expect many people will disagree with my viewpoint, but from a photography viewpoint it wasn't great. We all know that static displays at U.S. airshows are very different to those in Europe for example, where barriers and clutter are always in close proximity to the aircraft, but there's no
The sleek and unmistakable lines of a Lockheed T-33. Making his first flight at the age of seven in a Cessna 172, Greg Colyer was hooked. Now flying for over 30 years, Greg served in the US Army from 1982-1987, before spending 27 years as an Air Traffic Controller in Oakland. After flying with his friend Kay Eckhart, in a Lockheed T-33 in 2007, Greg acquired this beautiful T-33 in 2008 and named it Ace Maker.
Performing a fly-by was a Boeing KC-135R Stratotanker along with a F-22A Raptor and a F-35A Lightning II - both of which then conducted a display routine
Amazing that vapour trails can be seen from the F-35A bearing in mind that the temperature was around 30º C (85º F)
“Top Gun: Maverick” Darkstar
This Lockheed Martin F-22A Raptor from the resident 411 Flight Test Squadron performed a number of passes in front of the crowds of some 50,000 people
Note the black and white fiducial markers used to identify parameters of the aircraft from known points on the airframe while analyzing photos and videos
Hidden away from the displays were a couple of helicopters on alert in case of an accident, one of which was this rather cool MH-60S from Air Test and Evaluation Squadron 31 (VX-31) 'Dust Devils'. The Seahawk's primary role is search and rescue - the helicopter operating in the airspace surrounding Naval Air Weapons Station China Lake. The crews are on call seven days a week in order to conduct SAR missions, although the Seahawk also supports testing at China Lake, transports personnel and equipment, and assists in the location and retrieval of equipment used in test flight projects.
AEROSPACE VALLEY AIR SHOW
Summary: - With it being 13 years since the last airshow at Edwards, many people had travelled long distances, not just from across the U.S., but also from Europe and beyond to attend 'Aerospace Valley', with much anticipation of what they would see. In my opinion it was a disappointment – so much so that as I have already mentioned, I and a number of people I spoke to on the Saturday decided not to attend on the Sunday. Fortunately, myself and my colleague had many other arrangements organised in the build-up to the show, but I feel sorry for those that had made the long journey just for the show. If loud and fast is your thing then maybe you
Originally designated as a NF-16D Fighting Falcon, the Variable In-flight Simulator Aircraft (VISTA) was re-designated as the X-62A in June 2021, the X designation denoting an aircraft designed for testing configurations of a radical nature.
Operated by the Air Force Test Pilot School with the support of Calspan and Lockheed Martin, the aircraft first flew in 1992 and has been a staple of the Test Pilot curriculum. The aircraft started life as a Block 30 F-16D and for over two decades has embodied cutting-edge flight test and aerospace technology. The X-62A is currently undergoing an upgrade program to replace the VISTA Simulation System.
NORTHROP GRUMMAN 'STARGAZER'
Stargazer is a Lockheed L-1011 TriStar built in 1974, and modified in 1994 to be used by Orbital Sciences (now part of Northrop Grumman) as a mother ship launch pad for the Pegasus-H and Pegasus-XL launch vehicles. It is currently the world’s only flying Lockheed L-1011 with a nominal flight endurance of 10 hours, and a range of 4200 nautical miles. The aircraft made the short hop from its base at nearby Mojave Airport to set up in the static display. The double keel structure that the vertical fin of the Pegasus XL fits between can be seen underneath the main fuselage.
SOFIA - NASA's Flying Observatory
SOFIA, the Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy, is a Boeing 747SP aircraft modified to carry a 2.7-meter (106-inch) reflecting telescope (with an effective diameter of 2.5 meters or 100 inches). Flying into the stratosphere at 38,000-45,000 feet puts SOFIA above 99 percent of Earth’s infrared-blocking atmosphere, allowing astronomers to study the solar system and beyond in ways that are not possible with ground-based telescopes. SOFIA is made possible through a partnership between NASA and the German Space Agency DLR.