Two Dozen F-22 Raptors stealth fighters from the 3rd Wing and 477th Fighter Group took part in a close formation taxi with an E-3 Sentry and a C-17 Globemaster III, known as an Elephant Walk, March 26, 2019, during a Polar Force exercise at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska.
Elephant Walk is a U.S. Air Force term for the taxing of military aircraft right before takeoff when they are in close formation. The aircraft staged what is known as an “Elephant Walk”, a kind of drills during which combat planes (including tankers) taxi in close formation in the same way they would do in case of a minimum interval takeoff, then, depending on the purpose of the training event, they can either take off or return back to their parking slots.
“This two-week exercise gives squadrons an opportunity to demonstrate their abilities to forward deploy and deliver overwhelming combat airpower,” according to a news release put out by U.S. Air Force.
Photographs of the close-formation taxi were posted on Facebook by Air Force officials who said the display was part of Polar Force, a two-week exercise giving squadrons a chance to demonstrate their ability to forward deploy and deliver overwhelming combat airpower.
What is particularly interesting in the photos of the exercise at JBER, is the fact that, along with the Raptors, also a Sentry took part in the “walk”.
The configuration of the F-22 aircraft involved in the Elephant Walk at JBER is also interesting as the stealth jets carry underwing tanks: that is the standard external loadout both in case of QRA launch and for ferry flights and forward deployments.
After taking the shots, the aircraft cleared the runway, taxied back to the threshold of RWY24 and took off in sequence.
Apparently, this elephant walk is tied into a larger exercise called Polar Force. According to 3rd Wing, the “two-week exercise gives squadrons an opportunity to demonstrate their abilities to forward deploy and deliver overwhelming combat airpower.” So, we may see more unique action out of the base in the days to come.
The benefits of an Elephant Walk include being able to show the capability of the units as well as teamwork. It is often performed to prepare squadrons for wartime operations and to prepare pilots for the launching of fully armed aircraft in one mass event.