F15 Low Level

The Sidewinder Military Low Flying Locations

The R-2508 Complex & Sidewinder Low Flying Route ‑ An Introduction

The R-2508 Complex is a training area used by military aircraft in the Upper Mojave Desert region of California. It covers an area from the Rogers Dry Lake (formerly Muroc Dry Lake) in the south, to just south of Bishop in the north. It encompasses the Sierra Nevada Mountains in the west and borders Death Valley National Park in the east.

The Complex includes all the airspace and associated land used and managed by the three principal users:
• NAWS China Lake.
• National Training Centre (NTC), Fort Irwin.
• Air Force Test Wing, Edwards Air Force Base.

The Complex is composed of: Restricted Internal Areas (such as the R‑2515 Edwards AFB Restricted Area used by the 412th Test Wing), Military Operational Areas (MOA), Air Traffic Control Assigned Airspace Areas and other special use airspace. The use of these areas includes bombing ranges, supersonic corridors, low altitude high speed manoeuvres, radar intercept areas and re‑fuelling areas.

Within the R-2508 Complex is the Sidewinder, a low flying route of over 450km, which was developed to standardise low flying training for the Department of Defence (DoD). The route is defined by thirteen alphabetical waypoints which must be flown sequentially i.e. A, B, C, D etc in a horseshoe shape clockwise direction ( see image below).

Sidewinder Low Flying Route Map Reference Figure 5‑2: from the ‘R‑2508 Complex Users Handbook’.

The waypoints are easily identifiable ground reference points for pilots when flying in the low flying environment, such as dams, mountain peaks, crossing of roads and so on. Course reversals are not authorised, but aircraft can enter or exit at any point on the route, though preferred entry/exit points are noted in the ‘R‑2508 Complex Users Handbook’.

The normal entry point for aircraft flying the whole or part of the Sidewinder is:
Centre of the West Dam at Lake Isabella (Point A). Three nautical miles north of the Kern Valley airport they can drop into low‑level and route north along the Kern Valley to the Needles Lookout Tower (Point B) and then east over the Sierra Nevada Mountain Range to Olancha (Point C), located on Highway 395 in the Owens Valley.

At Olancha (Point C), aircraft flying the whole Sidewinder will route north to its northern extremity at the Tinemaha Reservoir (Point E) near Big Pine. Here they route in an easterly direction (to Point F) before eventually heading in a southerly direction through the Saline Valley (Point H), Panamint Valley (Point J), to Trona (Point K). Heading south‑west from Trona the normal exit point from low‑level is just north of Johannesburg (Point M) on Highway 395.

At Olancha (Point C), aircraft can enter an alternative low flying route known as the Jedi Transition, which cuts out the top half of the Sidewinder, shortening the route to approximately 275km. The Jedi Transition runs west to east, rejoining the Sidewinder in the Panamint Valley (Point J). On the Jedi Transition are the photography locations of Lower Centennial Flats (Willows Place) and Rainbow Canyon where some of the photos in the USA Military Low Flying Gallery were captured.

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