Behold These Incredible New Photos Of The Altus Air Force Base’s Impressive Elephant Walk

Altus Air Force Base Elephant Walk
All the 29 aircraft involved in the Elephant Walk at Altus Air Force Base, Oklahoma, on Apr. 2, 2021. (All images credit: Rob Stephens / @RedhomeAviation)

97th AMW at Altus Air Force Base carried out an impressive Elephant Walk with 29 aircraft, including KC-135s, KC-46s and C-17s.

On Apr. 2, 2021, Altus Air Force Base (AAFB), Oklahoma, conducted an exercise to simulate a mass evacuation of aircraft in preparation of an emergency weather situation. During the exercise, 97th Air Mobility Wing’s aircraft performed a pretty impressive “Elephant Walk”, lining up and taxiing on the runway before taking off for a practice “large-scale evacuation”.

AAFB is not new to such kind of drills. Last year, a similar exercise was carried out in May. In fact, the base is located in Southwest Oklahoma a region affected by frequent severe weather events and this is the reason why such evacuations are put to test: in case of real-world severe weather events, natural disasters or hostile actions, the launch of the “heavies” has to take place as soon as possible.

Remarkably, while the Elephant Walk last year included “just” 24 aircraft, the one carried out on Apr. 2, 2021, included 29 aircraft: 12x KC-135 Stratotankers, 5x KC-46 Pegasus and 12x C-17 Globemasters. As explained commenting the 2020 Elephant Walk, “generating multiple aircraft sorties can be a significant challenge for any flying unit. In fact, not all aircraft are available for the flying activity each day: some are involved in scheduled maintenance activities, others are grounded by minor or major issues while others on standby as spares. Then, there might not be enough aircrews to launch the aircraft, because of the working shifts, currencies, training activities, deployments, time-offs, etc.” For this reason, yesterday’s mass launch is quite impressive.

In total, 29 aircraft took part in the Elephant Walk: 12 KC-135s, 5 KC-46s, 12 C-17s.

Our friend Rob Stephens at Redhome Aviation was at AAFB as the Elephant Walk, subsequent launch and final recovery of the aircraft took place and shot the incredible photographs that you can find in this article.

The leading KC-135 is clearly visible in this shot.
Altus Air Force Base Elephant Walk
Another image of the 97th AMW Elephant Walk.

One final comment.

Elephant Walks are training events during which military aircraft taxi in close formation or in sequence (in the same way elephants do) 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. 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. For instance, we have recently reported about a pretty unusual photo shooting that was referred to as an Elephant Walk but involved 18 German Air Force Eurofighters which were not taxiing when the shots were taken but were simply parked on the runway to take the photographs (so much so someone called it an “Elephant Park”). This one at AAFB has all the ingredients for being a “real” Elephant Walk: a whopping number of airplanes; the “Elephants” (considered the size of the aircraft); and the “walk”, as all the aircraft were taxiing.

C-17 Globemaster III airlifter.
Unlike other Elephant Walks which were staged just for photographic reasons, the one at AAFB also included a real launch of the base aircraft. Here are the aircraft returning to Altus for recovery.


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.