Thursday, April 25, 2024

US Air Force showcases its growing air combat might

The U.S. Air Force has staged an impressive “elephant walk,” involving 48 F-35A Lightning IIs and 12 F-16s during a routine readiness exercise at Eielson Air Force Base.

An elephant walk is a USAF term referred to the taxiing of military aircraft right before takeoff, when they are in close formation.

The demonstration is part of the base’s training operations exercising the 354th FW ability to rapidly generate and launch the wing’s F-35A Lightning II and F-16 Fighting Falcon aircraft. The event provided the opportunity for Airmen to hone high-end readiness capabilities.


“Since our capability demonstration in March 2022, we received our last F-35s and completed our fleet,” said Col. David Berkland, 354th FW commander. “The 354th FW has the iron and we’re ready to project airpower anytime, anywhere.”

The F-35A is the U.S. Air Force’s latest fifth-generation fighter. It will replace the U.S. Air Force’s aging fleet of F-16 Fighting Falcons and A-10 Thunderbolt II’s, which have been the primary fighter aircraft for more than 20 years, and bring with it an enhanced capability to survive in the advanced threat environment in which it was designed to operate.

With its aerodynamic performance and advanced integrated avionics, the F-35A will provide next-generation stealth, enhanced situational awareness, and reduced vulnerability for the United States and allied nations.

Eielson’s location in Alaska makes it an ideal place to launch airpower capable of reaching anywhere in the Northern Hemisphere in one fighter sortie.

“Our location is a big asset,” said Berkland. “We’re able to provide world-class training because of our proximity to the Joint Pacific Alaska Range Complex, and we can support the projection of all kinds of aircraft, including our permanently-stationed F-35s and other strategic airpower, all over the world. We are ready to answer the call.”

Following the capabilities demonstration, the pilots conducted local training sorties in the JPARC. The 354th FW is the world’s premier fifth-generation fighter wing—ready to compete, deter and win the high-end fight with a diverse, ready and innovative force.

Photo by Elizabeth Schoubroek
Photo by Danielle Sukhlall

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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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