Saturday, 13 August 2016

RAeS Coventry Branch visit the USAF 48TW at RAF Lakenheath

Friday 12 August 2016 08:00hrs and the coach leaves from Rolls Royce Gate 1 at Ansty near Coventry for a visit to the 48th Tactical Wing of the USAF stationed at RAF Lakenheath in Suffolk. The group on the coach consists of a   
mix of members of the RAeS, the RAG as a couple of guests. 
Lovely old double-decker parked next to our coach at Cambridge Services

Approaching the base we saw a couple of F-15E's in the circuit and sadly that was to be our sole glimpse of fighter aircraft for the day.

We arrived a little early, in fact 30 minutes early, so we were directed to the Viewing Area at the end of the runway, where we saw this Hercules depart

On our return we and to undergo strict security checks of both coach and occupants and our guides for the tour arrived to take us on a "mystery" tour around the base, starting with the multi-denominational chapel where we were welcomed and shown around by the Head Chaplain. The headline picture above at the top of this post shows the main leaded window in the chapel depicting the Statue of Liberty.

Our next stop was the EOD squadron, the courageous people that sweep the battlefield for unexploded munitions and IEDs. We saw our first Strike Eagles on the ground whilst waiting to enter the EOD buidling

Boeing F-15E Strike Eagle being prepared to goe back into its HAS.
Master Sergeant Alice Olguin, assisted by a couple of her colleagues explained their function,and the sophisticated battlefield equipment they use for detecting and neutralising explosive devices, including mobile robots. The peace time mission of the squadron is mainly the making safe of ordnance when an aircraft returns with a hanging bomb or missile. We spent the best part of an hour with the squadron, including some time in their bar and relaxation area where we saw pictures of some of their colleagues that had given their lives to protect their comrades from IEDs. The most remarkable aspect was the commitment and enthusiasm for this dangerous job that these guys displayed, MS Olguin having been part of the OED organisation for 19 years with a number of tours in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Master Sergeant Alice Olguin and some of the munitions and equipment

Mike Overs next to a blast suit

One of our guides volunteered to try the blast suit for size.

The kevlar suite including its helmet weigh in at approximately 85 pounds

Apart from its weight, the suit costs approximately $50,000

Almost completely suited up with the blast collar up protected the neck

Apart from protective gloves he is now ready.....but has not been trained

Following on from the EOD squadron we were take to the Open Air Museum, which consists of four aircraft mounted on plinths, three jets on one side of the road and a Spitfire on the other. Apart from the latter the aircraft represent aircraft that have served with the USAFE at RAF Lakenheath over the decades.

Boeing F-15A Eagle

Supermarine Spitfire (replica)

General Dynamics F-111E, popularly know as the Aardvark

McDonnell-Douglas F-4C Phantom II

Spitfire Memorial dedicated to "The Few"

RAF Lakenheath Control Tower, manned but no flying this afternoon

Off to see an Eagle.......

Unfortunately indoors and keep 10 feet away.....

....and as expected lighting is an issue when it comes to photgraphy

The F-15E was part of some equipment on show for a ceremony that evening, a Humvee can be seen in the background

The aircraft showed some interesting markings and the air refuelling hatch is clearly visible.

Not a young bird, but still impressive both in size and capability

Clearly the boss' aircraft and his lady WSO

Another piece of equipment on show, this lovely fire engine.

Group photo courtesy Ray Ball

Distant flightline
Gate Guardian North American F-100D Super Sabre. Picture courtesy Mike Overs (taken through the coach window on the way out)

All in all it was a great day with unexpected and interesting facets, but what was missing was some flying action for us to see and photograph. The weather was great, perhaps a wee bit windy, but not too warm and clear blue skies. 

Theo Claassen
13 August 2016

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