F-35’s First-Ever “Elephant Walk” With 35 Lightning II Aircraft At Hill AFB. Two USAF Fighter Wings (388th and 419th Fighter Wing) Line Up 35 F-35s During Type’s First-Ever ‘Elephant Walk’ Exercise
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These drills test units’ abilities to generate as many sorties as possible in a 24-hour period, something they might have to do during a surge in combat operations. It’s not clear whether it was intentional or not, but for this debut event, the two wings sent a seemingly symbolic 35 jets onto the runway.
These exercises, also known as short-notice combat readiness drills, typically occur at bases overseas and at major hubs in the United States, such as Hill. They can include all sorts of different aircraft, as well as helicopters, and even non-combat types on certain rare occasions.
During Elephant Walk exercises military aircraft (usually fully armed – but in the case of the F-35, the aircraft might carry some air-to-air missiles and bombs inside the weapons bays) taxi in close formation or in sequence right before a minimum interval takeoff and, depending on the purpose of the training event they then either take off or taxi back to the apron.
The exercise aims to confirm their ability to quickly employ a large force of jets against air and ground targets, and demonstrate the readiness and lethality of the F-35 Lightning II. As the first combat-ready F-35 units in the Air Force, the 388th and 419th FWs are ready to deploy anywhere in the world at a moment’s notice.
The 388th Fighter Wing and its Reserve associate 419th Fighter Wing, are the F-35 units that met or surpassed the list of criteria to be considered “combat ready” with the Lightning II back in 2016.