Thursday, January 7, 2010

F-16s Over Machtesh Ramon

Nothing can ruin a nice blue sky like spreading con trails. I remember once camping in Tuolumne Meadows in Yosemite National Park, one of the most pristine and stunning wilderness areas in America. High over head a jet plane flew, the roar of its engines surprisingly loud in the wilderness. All of a sudden, the con trail took a huge arc to the left, eventually returning to its straight line path. The pilot had stood the plane on its side so the passengers could get a look at Yosemite Valley, causing the flight path to veer off the straight and narrow. Soon the con trail spread and obscured the sky for some time.

There are no con trails that obscure the skies in Israel. First of all, Israel's friendly Arab neighbors to the east forbid the country's planes from flying in their air space, and pretty soon after that you're in Iraq and Iran air space, and who the heck wants to be there unless you plan to bomb a nuclear facility? Also, since Israel is so small, I imagine that most airlines scoot above or below its borders when flying east. So, the only planes one usually sees in Israeli skies are military.

There is a major air force base outside of Be'er Sheva and other air force bases not far from Mitzpe Ramon. Last Monday we saw Israeli F-16s on maneuvers over and through the crater. The planes would fly high circular loops around town, and then swoop down into the crater's mouth, eventually circling well behind the town into the high desert where continuous sonic booms would be heard in the distance. Eventually the booms became quite disconcerting. Occasionally a jet will break the sound barrier over the town, setting off all of the car alarms and causing quite a commotion.

It was quite a spectacle to stand on the observation deck over looking the crater and wait for the jets to appear. All of a sudden, out of nowhere they would come, one chasing the other, and no sooner there than gone. I captured their maneuvers in one pass shown below.

Israeli F-16 jets over Machtesh Ramon

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