Some readers of this blog sent me comments and emails after I published the article about the “insane” line up at Seymour Johnson AFB on Apr. 16. Although almost everyone was impressed by the amount of fighters (with inert armament) on the runway, someone thought it was nothing more than a “useless show of force” since aircraft (in their opinion) did not take off.
Actually, the main difference between the Kunsan airbase “Elephant Walk” (made of 60 U.S. and South Korea’s F-16s) and the one performed by nearly 70 F-15Es at Seymour Johnson AFB, N.C., is that (number of aircraft aside), in the first case, the aircraft were armed with live ordnance hence did not take off (they just taxied down the runway); in the the second one, the 4th FW launched about 70 sorties to virtually destroy 1,000 mock targets across the state!
Here’s a video showing the Strike Eagles taxiing down the runway and then take off in sequence.
Indeed “Mustang Mayhem 2012″ (that’s the name of the 4th FW exercise) was a show of force. But, just like Operation Chimichanga, it was also a way to validate procedures used for mass launches.
Once again: “train as you fight, fight as you train”.
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
On Jan. 13, 2012, at Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan, the F-15E Strike Eagle #89-0487 became the only Strike Eagle to have had a successful air-to-air kill and the only F-15 to have logged more than 10,000 hours of flying time.
In fact, in Jan. 1991, the same plane piloted by Capt. Tim Bennet and WSO Capt. Dan Bakke, destroyed a flying Iraqi Mi-24 helicopter with a 2,000-lb GBU-10 Laser Guided Bomb in the only credited F-15E air-to-air kill recorded so far.
Capt. Ryan Bodenheimer and Capt. Erin Short of the 445th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron deployed from Seymour-Johnson Air Force Base, N.C. flew the F-15E during the historical mission that brought the logged flying hours of #89-0487 up to 10,000, an event that was celebrated by applying special markings to the lucky plane.
Image credit: Air Force