Re: F-16s at Groom Lake

Message posted by Peter Merlin on April 18, 2012 at 8:57:16 PST:

The F-16s are normally used for chase and support missions, just as the F-101s were used during the OXCART program. As with the F-101s, they also may be used for proficiency flights and occasional range patrol/intercept missions.

I once asked OXCART pilot Frank Murray if he ever encountered any NASA aircraft near Area 51. He told me about the time he used an F-101 to intercept a NASA F-104 that was making simulated X-15 approaches to Delamar Dry Lake. Similarly, I asked NASA pilot Bill Dana if he had any Area 51 stories, and he told me about the time he was intercepted by an F-101 while practicing X-15 approaches in his F-104 at Delamar Dry Lake. The lakebed was within the YULETIDE Special Operations Area (later renamed DREAMLAND).

I would expect to see an F-16 used to intercept air traffic that strays too close to the now much smaller DREAMLAND airspace (known as "The Box"), but I have also seen one used when visitors were climbing Tikaboo Peak.

On June 24, 2009, I was with a film crew that started climbing Tikaboo around sunrise. When we were about halfway up the mountain, a two-seat F-16 approached from behind us, coming up Badger Vally at low altitude. At first, I thought it was just passing through from Nellis, but the pilot circled the peak right over our heads. He then dove into Tikaboo Valley and repeated his original approach before climbing steeply. For the next 15 minutes of so, the F-16 pilot gave us an aerobatic demonstration that included loops, rolls, and low passes. Each maneuver was repeated several times, as if to give the cameraman sufficient opportunity to get a good shot.

After the first five minutes of this display, one of the MH-60G helicopters arrived. The chopper first appeared as it made a dramatic climb from behind the summit of the mountain before diving back down into Tikaboo Valley. It then circled the peak and hovered over us briefly before repeating the original maneuver several times, again almost as if performing for the cameras.

I can almost understand a visit from the helicopter, even though Tikaboo Peak is 26 miles from Groom Lake, but I can't imagine anything that would justify sending the F-16. Hopefully, the pilot was already up for a proficiency flight and was not scrambled just for us. There was a second crewman in the back seat. Perhaps he had a camera, too.

In Reply to: Re: 2003 Iraqi Freedom War (Requesting Peter Merlin) posted by Whetesjanet on April 17, 2012 at 15:04:41 PST:


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