Luke Air Force Base – 11/19/2013
Article and Photos by Steven Valinski
When one thinks of Luke Air Force Base, it conjures images of F-16 Fighting Falcons. Since Luke is a major F-16 training base, these images would be an accurate association. Today, it was not the F-16’s that brought me to Luke, it was the visiting F-15 Strike Eagles from the 428th Fighter Squadron out of Mountain Home AFB in Idaho. These F-15’s are the “state of the art” F-15SG models used by the Republic of Singapore Air Force. The 428th FS “Buccaneers” are currently visiting Luke to conduct joint training missions with their companion RSAF squadron the 425th FS “Black Widows”, which is based out of Luke.
The weather forecast for the day called for partly cloudy skies. I was hoping for vast blue sky with white puffy clouds for my photographic backdrop. This was not the case. Massive grey clouds dampened the sunlight at key times and made photographing aircraft a challenge. Runway 21 was in use all afternoon so a decision was made to observe/photograph from the guardrail where Bethany Home Road meets Alsup Road [GPS 33.522663, -112.402527]. This location can be great for departures, options, and low passes on runway 21R. For this type of activity on 21L, a lens with a focal length of at least 300mm is required, 400mm if shooting a full-frame DSLR.
The level of activity was plentiful throughout the afternoon. The F-15’s took off shortly after 4:15 PM when the lighting was most challenging. I was able to get a few decent shots of them along the some of the F-16’s. In addition, I did some evening shooting in an attempt to get some dramatic sunset shots. I plan to go to Luke several more times over the next few weeks in an attempt to get the 428th’s F-15’s in better lighting conditions.