Chilean “Pampa Tigers” Perform Rare Elephant Walk With Ten F-16s Carrying (Inert) Air-to-Air Missiles

The Elephant Walk at Cerro Moreno Air Force Base. (FACh)

In conjunction with its 71st anniversary, Chilean Air Force Group N°7, nicknamed “Pampa Tigers”, performed a readiness drill with its F-16AM/BM MLU at Cerro Moreno Air Force Base (SCFA). This was also a rare opportunity to see the Chilean F-16s armed with (inert) missiles.

On Sept. 1, 2020, the Grupo de Aviation N° 7 of the Fuerza Aérea de Chile (FACh), also known as “Los Tigres de la Pampa” (“Pampa Tigers”), celebrated its 71st anniversary with an “Elephant Walk” that involved 10 F-16AM/BM Block 20 jets.

The event was carried out on Taxiway E near the RWY 01/19 threshold at Cerro Moreno Air Base, homebase of the unit.

During Elephant Walk exercises military aircraft (sometimes fully armed – in most cases, with inert weapons) taxi in close formation or in sequence right before a minimum interval takeoff and, depending on the purpose of the training event, then they either take off or taxi back to the apron. Quite rare until a few years ago (and limited to the U.S. units in the Korean peninsula), such “shows of force” have become increasingly popular both at American air bases in CONUS and abroad, as well as among foreign air arms. To that respect, we have recently reported about the first Elephant Walk of the Italian Air Force with the Eurofighter Typhoons at Gioia del Colle Air Base. Similar both in “size” and rarity was the one of the Fuerza Aérea de Chile.

Indeed, the Elephant Walk was a pretty unique event. According to our reader Christian Marambio, who provided most of the details about this historical celebration, this should be the very first Elephant Walk in the history of the Chilean Air Force: “I have never seen nor heard of anything similar on previous combat aircraft flown by the FACh, including the F-5 Tiger II and III, Mirage 50 Panteras, the Mirage Elkan, Cessna A-37 Dragonflys or even the Hawker Hunters,” Christian told us in an email.

What is more, the F-16s which took part in the drills were armed with (inert) AIM-9M Sidewider and AIM-120C-7 (including CATM-9M and CATM-120M), something somewhat rare since Chilean combat aircraft are seldom displayed, let alone photographed, carrying weapons, in Chile.

The CATM-x an inert store that is captive carried on the aircraft and simulates the missile for training purposes. It is identical to the live missile in weight, center of gravity, and overall appearance, but carries inert warhead and rocket motor.

Chilean Vipers

The Chilean Air Force initially ordered a total of 10 brand new block 50 F-16 Fighting Falcons. These aircraft were supplemented by 29 F-16AM MLU and 7 F-16BM MLU Tape 4 purchased from the Netherlands, currently equipping Groups N° 7 and N° 8 all based at Cerro Moreno Air Force Base in the northern city of Antofagasta.

This unit transitioned to the ex Koninklijke Luchtmacht jets in 2011 after transferring the fleet of Northrop F-5E/F Tiger III to Group N° 12 at Chabunco AFB.

A Chilean F-16 flies on the wingtip of a U.S. KC-135 Stratotanker after refueling Oct. 26, 2009. The Fuerza Aérea de Chile or FACh hosted the United States, Brazil, Argentina, and France during Exercise SALITRE II, a multinational exercise focused on interoperability. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Eric Petosky)

H/T to Christian Marambio for helping us in the preparation of this article.

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.