The JFEX 17A Exercise was a "go" just as advertised on the Nellis website. No NOTAMs were posted for the Nellis or Tonopah airbases so I had no frequency or callsigns. In the past, the C-17s were "Thugs" and the C-130s went by "Outlaw," or "Felons." No big deal as due to the mountains, radio reception there is pretty poor… As we turned down the Cedar Gate Road, there was a truck that looked like a Roland RADAR. As I passed it appeared to be some sort of comm or uplink maybe.
The exercise started about 10am at the KENO airstrip with fighters high up doing MiG CAP. Also very high up I saw some B-52s, B-1s and a MQ-9 Reaper. I had to zoom in on my photos to confirm their identification.
Shortly after two A-10s "pounded" the airfield with low level passes for most of the mission. The airfield launched some smokey SAMs and the Hogs responded with lots of flares. I was surprised to see how long the A-10s loitered on station to provide CAS. After a half an hour or so, (13) C-17s appeared on the horizon to the north. Unlike past JFEX / MAFEX exercises, they did not drop any cargo or airborne on the airfield as they flew over. They just did a low level pass from the north to the south and then headed towards Nellis. I do not know where their actual destination was but it was to the southeast. KENO fired up more smokey SAMs and the C-17s popped flares as well. Next came (17) C-130s. They followed suit and did the same low level pass but this time breaking in a tighter turn and headed right over us parked on the main road near the range's Cedar Gate. I thought the show was over and a bit disappointed as nothing was dropped and no one landed on the KENO airstrip. As we were packing up, two more C-17s appeared to the north and were descending. They came straight in for a landing kicking up tons of dust! They parked at the southern end for about 20 minutes before taking off back to the north. They both popped flares as they departed but not all at once like the "angel flares." After that, the exercise really looked to be over, so we left Cedar Gate. On the way out, I stopped for a picture of Cedar Pipeline Ranch. There were lots of cattle out and I thought it would look as I snapped the picture, I noticed one more C-17 landing. As we were at the ranch, so we continued to head back to Rachel. Beautiful day and awesome exercise!