Saturday, December 10, 2022

U.S. Marine Corps conducts first ever F-35B fighter jet ‘elephant walk’

Airmen assigned to the Marine Fighter Attack Training Squadron (VMFAT) 501 successfully conducted its first so-called “elephant walk” exercise, launching 20 F-35B Lightning II aircraft.

In an extraordinary display of raw power, military might, and operational readiness, ground and air crews from VMFAT-501, launched 20 aircraft near simultaneously in support of scheduled training.

“The safe launch and recovery of the aircraft, affirms the squadron’s commitment to achieving and sustaining the highest level of readiness in order to train the next generation of F-35B pilots from the U.S. Marine Corps and partner nations,” said in a statement put out by Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort.


Marine Fighter Attack Training Squadron conducted a readiness exercise comprised of 20 F-35B Lightning II of stealth fifth-generation fighters aboard Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort.

An ‘Elephant Walk’ is a fundamental training element when preparing for global strike missions.

“Elephant Walk’ is a unique Air Force term introduced during World War II, eventually becoming a part of the Air Force’s institutional language. The Army Air Corps’ large fleet of bombers would regularly conduct attacks by sorties comprising more than 1,000 aircraft. Observers commented that the nose-to-tail, single-file taxi movements of the heavily-laden bombers paralleled the nose-to-tail trail of lumbering elephants on their way to the next watering hole. The term stuck – and was even used to define maximum aircraft surge operations in Air Force regulations.

According to, the first such drills involving an F-35 of any variant took place in November 2018 at Hill Air Force Base, Utah, but this was the first time the STOVL (Short Take Off Vertical Landing) variant of the Lightning II took part in an “Elephant Walk”.

Photo by Cpl. Debra Sainer
Photo by Cpl. Debra Sainer
Photo by Cpl. Debra Sainer

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About this Author

Dylan Malyasov
Defense journalist and commentator. Aviation photographer. Dylan leads Defence Blog's coverage of global military news, focusing on engineering and technology across the U.S. defense industry.