These are the planes the Air Force doesn’t want you to photograph from short distance

Mar 14 2013 - 10 Comments

Even if you can find thousand images of these planes on websites, forums, etc., there’s a weird U.S. Air Force rule according to which some planes involved in Red Flag exercises can’t be photographed from inside the base.

For instance, during RF 13-3 currently underway, Langley’s F-22 stealth fighters, Shaw Air Force Base’s F-16CJ and few more planes were among the aircraft within a restricted list during the Media Day hosted by Nellis Air Force Base.

EC-130

Obviously, there are no off limits planes if you take pictures from outside the base’s fence, where several spotters and photographer usually observe and shoot with powerful lenses the aircraft arriving and departing from the airbase located northeast of Las Vegas.

F-22 bottom

Sometimes restrictions apply to single aircraft parts (“B-2’s tail end“) or to entire fleets (“all the “OT” tailed planes are off limits”) whereas some are just temporary and are lifted every now and then: all the Langley F-22s coded “FF” were fair game at last year’s Red Flag whereas UAE Air Force Mirage 2000s, were not allowed during RF 13-2 but could be shot and filmed as they flew from Nellis for the subsequent Green Flag.

F-22

Noteworthy, pictures of some of the “taboo planes” taken by service photographers are then posted at high resolution on the USAF or DoD websites and Flickr photostreams, even if they depict some sensitive things (as “Dreamland”)

F-16CJ 2

According to internal sources, even if none is a “black project” there are serious reasons why the Air Force doesn’t want some pictures taken and put in the public domain from inside the base; most probably, from short distance, cameras could get some minor changes in the airframes that could unveil new systems being tested that zoom from distance won’t notice.

OT F-15s

Complying with the above mentioned restrictions, we haven’t taken any forbidden shot from inside the base.

And, to be honest, we haven’t caught anything weird on the restricted planes based on the photos in this post (obviously taken from outside the base) possibly proving that restrictions work as photos taken from a certain distance don’t unveil sensitive details.

Anyway, in your opinion, what’s the reason why aircraft in this post can’t be photographed from the inside?

91-0325-OT. F-15E. 422TES. Nellis 25.02.2013

81-0030-OT-53 TEG. F-15C. 422TES. Nellis 26.02.13

All images David Cenciotti & Tony Lovelock

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  • Jay

    What’s the netting on the tail end of that C-130?

    • http://www.facebook.com/Zaphod58 Steve Fortson

      It’s similar to a trailing wire antenna carried on the E-6 and E-4 aircraft. The EC-130 is used on electronic warfare missions including psyop missions, which include broadcasting over tv and radio. That wire framing acts as a giant radio antenna.

    • Jarol

      That’s what’s affectionately known as the “cheese grater” antenna. That’s not just any C-130. That’s an EC-130H COMPASS CALL

  • http://www.facebook.com/Zaphod58 Steve Fortson

    I can see why they didn’t want pictures of the EC-130. Number 3 engine has a really bad leak, can’t tell if it’s prop or oil though, although it looks like it might be prop, since it’s coming from the front of the engine back.

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Lawrence-D-Wood/100000005183099 Lawrence D. Wood

      That’s just the shadow from the propeller blade.

  • Bigdirk

    Could it be that any reconfiguration of these aircraft, or whichever squadrons are represented, could give away the possible location of the next US area of operations? Such as Korea?

  • TangoIce

    The F-16 is carrying two different AIM-120 – the fins on the left wing are larger than the right wing? C vs D model?

  • LKY1965

    Most likely these are top-units that will be rushed to fight any future conflict around the world like North Korea or Iran. Pictures of the aircraft could be used to corroborate POW’s story in case the enemy manages to capture a downed pilot…

  • Zinger Aviation Media

    Seeing as I’m on the east coast and having never been to Nellis yet cover a Red Flag, I do know several talented photographers who have covered Red Flags in the past.

    Public Affairs and the respective squadrons asked that certain airplanes and angles not be photographed or filmed. This happens all the time at the Red Flag events at Nellis when PAO invites a handful of photographers out between the runways. Why the restrictions. Because. Because why? Well, that would probably get you kicked off base for asking that.

    Oh, you’re still looking for a legitimate reason? OPSEC.

  • CharleyA

    The USAF can be pretty anal about photographing airplanes and cockpits, the Navy decidedly less so.