52 F-35A Jets Take Part In Massive “Elephant Walk” At Hill Air Force Base, Utah.

The F-35s during the Elephant Walk (Image credit: U.S. Air Force photo by R. Nial Bradshaw)

The active duty 388th and Reserve 419th Fighter Wings conducted an F-35A Elephant Walk with 52 aircraft at Hill AFB.

On Jan. 6, 2020, Hill Air Force Base conducted a Combat Power Exercise that involved a whopping amount of F-35A Lightning II stealth aircraft: 52.

A photograph, taken by R. Nial Bradshaw, show the aircraft taxiing on the runway as part of what is usually dubbed an “Elephant Walk”.

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, which was planned for months, demonstrated their ability to employ a large force of F-35As – testing readiness in the areas of personnel accountability, aircraft generation, ground operations, flight operations, and combat capability against air and ground targets. A little more than four years after receiving their first combat-coded F-35A Lightning II aircraft, Hill’s fighter wings have achieved full warfighting capability,” said the 388th FW in a Facebook post (highlight mine).

This is the second Elephant Walk staged by Hill AFB with F-35s. The first one dates back to November 2018 when about 30 Lightning IIs were involved. Now, the number of active F-35s has almost doubled. Here’s what we wrote in the article commenting the first F-35’s Elephant Walk:

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.

The first squadron declared to be operational (i.e. achieved the IOC) was the 34th Fighter Squadron that was required to have at least 12 airframes ready for deployment operating as a basic close air support and air interdiction and limited SEAD (Suppression of Enemy Air Defenses) platform. Along with other personnel, maintenance and support requirements the Air Force squadron was also expected to ensure that enough pilots are combat ready, and pass proper examination: as of Jul. 27, 2016, when IOC was declared, 21 pilots and 12 F-35A airframes could be deployed in theater. Based on the photographs, the combined 388th and 419th FW have now more than 30 stealth aircraft ready for combat operations.

H/T @ryankakiuchan 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.