On Dec. 14, 2012, Kunsan airbase, Republic of Korea, hosted the latest of a series of Elephant Walk exercise involving F-16 Fighting Falcons from the 35th and 80th Fighter Squadrons of the 8th Fighter Wing; the 4th Fighter Squadron of the 388th Expeditionary Fighter Wing at Hill Air Force Base, Utah; and the 38th Fighter Group of the ROK Air Force.
During Elephant Walk exercises military aircraft (usually fully armed) 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.
In April 2012, nearly 70 F-15E Strike Eagles took part to one of the largest Elephant Walk to date at Seymour Johnson Air Force Base, N.C.
Last year’s exercise at Kunsan involved about 60 U.S. F-16s and South Korea’s ROKAF KF-16s taxiing down the runway of the South Korean airbase in a collective “show of force” whose primary aim is to test squadron’s readiness to war time operations (and secondary one is probably to impress Pyongyang….).
Since the number of aircraft that took part to the latest Elephant Walk at Kunsan has not been disclosed the question is: how many F-16s can you spot in these photos?
Image credit: U.S. Air Force
Nearly 70 F-15E Strike Eagles of the 4th Fighter Wing performed an “Elephant Walk” during a Turkey Shoot training mission on Seymour Johnson Air Force Base, N.C., on Apr. 16, 2012: a contingent larger than a mid-size European air force and a “show of force” even more impressive than the one organised at Kunsan air base on Mar. 6 to send a message a Kim Jong-un in anticipation of the (failed) ballistic missile test.
The wing, with aircrews assigned to the 333rd, 334th, 335th, and 336th Fighter Squadrons, generated about 70 sorties to destroy more than 1,000 targets on bombing ranges across the state, to commemorate the 4th’s victory over the Luftwaffe on Apr. 16, 1945.
The term Turkey Shoot dates back to a mission that took place Jun. 19, 1944 during WWII: on this day U.S. Navy aircraft carrier downed 373 Japanese planes with the loss of only 23 American planes and, according to the 4th FW historian Dr. Roy Heidicker, a Navy pilot who participated in this mission was attributed as saying “It was like a turkey shoot”.
While supporting the war effort the 4th FG destroyed more enemy aircraft than any group or wing in Air Force history and “We [the 4th FW] proudly carry on the legacy of the 4th FG’s victories, as well as those of the wing’s Korean, Vietnam, Gulf War efforts and believe it is critically important that current and future generations of Airmen understand and celebrate our history, so they can visualize what they will be capable of doing in the future,” Col. Patrick Doherty, 4th FW commander said in the press release published on the SJ website.
Image credit: U.S. Air Force
If I was able to correctly translate what the Chosun website says, the ones below show 60 U.S. F-16s and South Korea’s ROKAF KF-16s taxiing down the runway at Kunsan airbase during an exercise.
This kind of collective display of capability and teamwork, with military aircraft taxiing in close formation right before a minimum interval takeoff, in what is referred to as an “Elephant Walk”, is often performed at airbases all around the world to prepare squadrons for war time operations: what’s important is to test crews capability to quickly and safely prepare fully armed aircraft for a mass launch.
However, even if all the wartime operational procedures are conducted, the aircraft don’t take flight and it’s a pity because I would be curious to see how they would sequence departures to achieve proper separation considered the take-off weight and wake turbulence.
Anyway, an interesting show of force, that will surely impress Pyongyang.
Image credit: bemil.chosun.com