Wednesday, February 21, 2024

US Air Force stages ‘Elephant Walk’ featuring legendary U-2 spy planes

Beale Air Force Base in California orchestrated an impressive showcase, lining up eight legendary U-2 spy planes in a majestic “Elephant Walk,” showcasing joint airpower between multiple wings stationed at the base.

The event, held on January 4, 2023, involved U.S. Air Force U-2 Dragon Lady aircraft, T-38 Talons from the 1st Reconnaissance Squadron, and KC-135R Stratotanker aircraft from the 940th Air Refueling Wing, all partaking in the traditional pre-flight formation known as an “Elephant Walk.”

The term “elephant walk” harks back to World War II, when large fleets of allied bombers would assemble for missions containing up to 1,000 aircraft. It signifies a coordinated display of military might and preparedness.


Developed in secrecy by Lockheed in the early 1950s, the U-2 was created to fulfill the U.S. government’s imperative to surveil the Soviet Union and other unreachable areas from altitudes inaccessible to enemy aircraft and anti-aircraft systems.

Photo by Beale Air Force Base
Photo by Juliana Londono

The U-2 spy plane, a stalwart of aerial reconnaissance for over six decades, has undergone significant adaptations while maintaining its core mission of gathering crucial intelligence worldwide.

Despite the U-2 Dragon Lady’s enduring legacy and remarkable service, the U.S. Air Force has debated retiring this iconic spy plane multiple times. As per a recent report, plans are underway to retire the U-2S Dragon Lady fleet by 2026, marking a potential shift in the Air Force’s reconnaissance strategies.

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Executive Editor

About author:

Colton Jones
Colton Jones
Colton Jones is the deputy editor of Defence Blog. He is a US-based journalist, writer and publisher who specializes in the defense industry in North America and Europe. He has written about emerging technology in military magazines and elsewhere. He is a former Air Force airmen and served at the Ramstein Air Base in Germany.



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