A fleet of 30 fighter jets and two refueling aircraft based at Eielson Air Force Base in Alaska, close to the Arctic Circle, lined the runway ready for takeoff in a display of global air power and American military might.
A group from the 354th Fighter Wing and the 168th Wing Air National Guard were pictured on Friday in what is known as an ‘Elephant Walk’.
An elephant walk is a procession of military aircraft taxiing close in formation right before a minimum interval takeoff – essentially a readiness exercise in testing how quickly fighter jets can take to the skies.
Aircraft assigned to the 354th Fighter Wing and 168th Wing park in formation on Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska
A U.S. Air Force F-35A Lightning II assigned to the 354th Fighter Wing flies over Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska. . Thirty-five F-35As, F-16 Fighting Falcons and KC-135 Stratotankers conducted an Elephant Walk formation showcasing the air assets located in the middle of Alaska
A U.S. Air Force KC-135 Stratotanker from the Alaska Air National Guard’s 168th Wing taxis on the flightline on Friday at Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska. The 354th Fighter Wing and 168th Wing conducted an elephant walk, a large show-of-force, displaying the wings’ ability to mobilize its air assets quickly and efficiently amid a global pandemic
The formation was captured in a series of photographs as the planes sat on the runway.
Every aircraft at Eielson AFB, located just 110 miles south of the Arctic Circle, taxied into position displaying the full airpower of the 354th FW and the 168th Wing together.
18 F-35A Lightning II’s, 12 F-16 Fighting Falcons, and two KC-135 Stratotankers were all pictured on the tarmac ready for takeoff.
‘The Elephant Walk isn’t only to practice our abilities to respond quickly,’ said U.S. Air Force Col. David Skalicky, 354th Operations Group commander, ‘This is to show our Airmen who work behind the scenes what Eielson AFB is about, it’s about showing our strength in the arctic arena.’
A U.S. Air Force Airman assigned to the 354th Maintenance Group inspects a U.S. Air Force F-16 Fighting Falcon intake for ice build up prior to launch for an elephant walk on Eielson AFB
A U.S. Air Force F-35A Lightning II assigned to the 354th Fighter Wing taxis on the flightline. A total of 32 aircraft were generated showcasing the wing’s ability to integrate and seamlessly carry out the mission in harsh arctic conditions
The 354th FW and 168th WG worked together to demonstrate Eielson’s ability to launch a large number of aircraft at a moment’s notice
‘We are executing this despite Coronavirus, despite the extreme weather conditions, and despite that it’s one of the shortest days of the year.’
‘Every Airman across the Fighter Wing contributed to today’s event, and we proved what our team is capable of…supporting, defending, or delivering 5th generation airpower and advanced training. Stay tuned, because our combat capability will continue to grow, and I’m incredibly proud of the disciplined, professional, combat-focused approach our team displayed,’ said Col. David Berkland, the 354th FW commander.
Displays of air power such as this are becoming far more common as the USAF attempts to send clear messages to other states such as Russia and China who are not afraid to antagonize American operations.
In August, the Russian military intimidated Bering Sea fishermen who were still in American waters.
In one incident a Russian warplane flew overheard while a fishing vessel sailed below forcing them to take a five hour detour.
In a second instance, Russian planes repeatedly buzzed two American fishing vessels and once again warned of live missile fire.
Sen. Dan Sullivan said the Arctic is the next arena of great military power competition, and Russia has built up a lot more infrastructure on its side.
‘Without further investment in our polar capabilities, our adversaries’ influence will grow,’ said Sullivan to AlaskaPublic.org. ‘And if that happens, we risk our ability to protect U.S. vessels conducting commerce, to enforce international law, and to defeat threats to our national security.’
The Russian military is also known to have recent deployed MiG-31 Foxhound long-range interceptor planed to their base in Anadyr, in the Chukotka region, directly opposite Alaska.
The 354th Fighter Wing and the Air National Guard’s 168th Wing aircraft line up. The elephant walk was a demonstration of the wing’s ability to rapidly generate combat airpower
A U.S. Air Force F-16 Fighting Falcon assigned to the 354th Fighter Wing flies over Eielson Air Force Base. More than two dozen fifth and fourth generation fighter aircraft and two KC-135 Stratotankers participated in the elephant walk demonstrating the 354th Fighter Wing and 168th Wing’s ability to rapidly mobilize aircraft in the harsh arctic conditions
U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Blade Dirickson, an 18th Aircraft Maintenance Unit F-16 Fighting Falcon dedicated crew chief, inspects an F-16 before an the drill
Russian and Chinese bombers flew a joint patrol mission over the Western Pacific on Tuesday in a show of increasingly close military ties between Moscow and Beijing.
The Russian military said that a pair of its Tu-95 strategic bombers and four Chinese H-6K bombers flew over the Sea of Japan and the East China Sea.
The Russian Defense Ministry said in a statement that the joint mission was intended to ‘develop and deepen the comprehensive Russia-China partnership, further increase the level of cooperation between the two militaries, expand their ability for joint action and strengthen strategic stability.’
The ministry added that the patrol flight ‘wasn’t directed against any third countries.’
Tuesday’s mission was the second such flight since a July 2019 patrol over the same area.
As the Arctic becomes even more important for its strategic location and U.S. proximity to Russia, it is likely the two squadrons based at Eielson will only serve to take on a more prominent role in the future according to The Drive.
In this photo taken from a video distributed by Russian Defense Ministry Press Service, on Tuesday a Chinese H-6K strategic bomber flies during a joint patrol mission over the Western Pacific
A Russian Tu-95 strategic bomber flies during a joint patrol mission in a show of increasingly close military ties between Moscow and Beijing. The Russian military said that a pair of its Tu-95 strategic bombers and four Chinese H-6K bombers flew over the Sea of Japan and the East China Sea