U.S. Air Force Stages Epic Elephant Walk at Kadena Air Base Japan Amid Growing Tension With North Korea

How many aircraft can you count in this picture? Will they persuade Kim Jong Un to give up his nuclear plans?

The images in this post show an impressive Elephant Walk carried out by fully armed U.S. Air Force aircraft belonging to the 18th Wing, at Kadena Air Base, Japan.

During Elephant Walks military aircraft taxi in close formation right before a minimum interval takeoff.

This kind of exercise is often performed at airbases all around the world (including South Korea), to prepare squadrons for wartime operations: what’s important is to test crews capability to quickly and safely prepare fully armed aircraft for a mass launch.

U.S. Air Force 44th and 67th Fighter Squadron F-15 Eagles and 961st Airborne Air Control Squadron E-3 Sentries taxi down the runway during a no-notice exercise April 12, 2017, at Kadena Air Base, Japan.  (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman John Linzmeier)

In this case the Elephant Walk was carried out during a “no-notice” exercise on Apr. 12.

The 18th Wing operates combat ready fleets of HH-60 Pave Hawks, F-15 Eagles, E-3 Sentries and KC-135 Stratotankers, making it the largest combat-ready wing in the U.S. Air Force capable to provide a wide array of missions: counter air, command and control, air refueling and combat search and rescue operations. Not bad for a single unit!

“Elephant Walks” are particularly frequent in South Korea where local-based U.S. Air Force jets (often alongside Republic of Korea Air Force planes) frequently stage such “collective shows of force” in response to North Korea’s aggressive posture and threats. Considered the current state of the relations between Washington and Pyongyang, with a U.S. Navy Carrier Strike Group heading to the Korean Peninsula, and several aircraft (including the WC-135 “nuclear sniffer”) amassing not far from North Korea, it seems to be quite likely that the Elephant Walk at Kadena Air Base was just a way to showcase U.S. Air Force 18th Wing’s ability to quickly generate combat air power in the event of an attack on Kadena, the largest U.S. military installation in the Indo-Asia-Pacific region, and flex the muscles against Kim Jong Un and his nuclear plans.

H/T @aviationcommons for the heads up!


About David Cenciotti
David Cenciotti is a journalist based in Rome, Italy. He is the Founder and Editor of “The Aviationist”, one of the world’s most famous and read military aviation blogs. Since 1996, he has written for major worldwide magazines, including Air Forces Monthly, Combat Aircraft, and many others, covering aviation, defense, war, industry, intelligence, crime and cyberwar. He has reported from the U.S., Europe, Australia and Syria, and flown several combat planes with different air forces. He is a former 2nd Lt. of the Italian Air Force, a private pilot and a graduate in Computer Engineering. He has written five books and contributed to many more ones.