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.
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.
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.