Aviation Spotters Online

Aviation Spotters Online

Spotters catch Raptors in Northern Australia

Cover shot above: Ian Hitchcock

With the USAF F-22 Raptors in town, northern Australian spotters are having a field day. The Raptors are from 90th Fighter Squadron (90 FS) assigned to the 3d Operations Group, 3d Wing, Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska. Known as the “The Dicemen” the fighters are here for exercises prior to participating at the Australian International Air Show at Avalon starting later this month where one of the Raptors will be participating in the flying displays. 

Interestingly the 90th FS is the USAF’s 4th oldest squadron and will be celebrating their 100th anniversary in August 2017. Congratulations to the Dicemen for later this year.  

Leroy Simpson and Ian Hitchcock have spotted the Raptors in the sky around Townsville. 

USAF F-22 Raptor heating up the North as it departs from Townsville Photo: Ian Hitchcock
Raptor AK 90 a (1 of 1)-1
F-22 Raptor Photo by: Leroy Simpson

Raptor AK 39 c (1 of 1)

F-22 Raptor in the skies over Townsville Photo by: Leroy Simpson

Going vertical … USAF F-22 Raptor giving it some. Photo: Ian Hitchcock


Often overlooked as people focus on the fighters is the support aircraft … like the force multipliers. Three KC-135R are in Darwin supporting the USAF presence here in Australia.

KC-135R 63-8018 ARS, 155th ARW, Nebraska ANG, KC-135R 63-8032 72nd ARS, 434th ARW, Grissom AFRC, Indiana and KC-135R 62-3752 117th ARS, 190th ARW, Kansas ANG (Kansas Coyotes)

Some of these support aircraft have also been caught by ASO’s top end team member Sid Mitchell.  


USAF KC-135 supporting the Raptors out of Darwin NT

REACH 325, USAF KC-135
USAF KC-135 flexing some American muscle in the top end.

POLAR 21 which is a USAF C-17 98-0051 517th Airlift Squadron, 3rd Wing, Elmendorf Alaska

C17 AK 80051 a (1 of 1)-1
USAF C-17 980051 Photo: Leroy Simpson

If you’re in the north we would highly recommend keeping your camera handy … especially over the next few weeks. 


  1. Ian…. how did you possibly manage to take a photo of a F22 flying in front of Mt Stuart like that? That is totally awesome and amazing. I have never seen an F22 with my own eyes. Do you know if they’re still exercising in Townsville, and roughly when should we go to the RAAF gates in order to see them flying, landing, or taking off? I went to the RAAF this morning, but no sign of any jets (no F18, no F22 etc). I would love to just see an F22 with my own eyes. Anyway, incredible photo you took. You are good. Very good.

    1. Hi Kenny, the local “spotters” have every angle around the airport figured out. The angle with Mt Stuart looks awesome.

      As for if and when the F-22 is back at RAAF Townsville is anyones guess. Due to the nature of this aircraft details aren’t given out around it. The guys are there most days hoping to see what comes in and they move around depending on light and what runway used etc. The photographers who took these photo’s are Ian Hitchcock and Leroy Simpson who are both based at Townsville.

      1. Thanks Mark! I went down to one of the gate-houses that other day, and the gate-keeper said she had just been back from leave, so didn’t know anything about the F22s flying in or out. The gatekeeper was friendly and helpful though. Anyway, it certainly is impressive the way that Ian and co were able to get the shots. Maybe it’s a combination of what they know, and who they know! I guess if they live very close to the airport, then at least they can hear or see the plane, and then go out there right away. Impressive never-the-less. Thanks again Mark. Appreciated.

  2. Hello Mark,

    My apologies for using this platform to contact you. This is the most direct way that I could find.

    I noticed some of your photographs of Bomber 717 on this site. I am the pilot of B717 (at least I was when the photos were taken). If you still have any large photo files of any of our bombers (716,717, and, 718), I would be very interested in buying some from you.

    Cheers Mark,

    Rohan Williams.

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