The U.S. Air Force 354th Air Expeditionary Wing (354th AEW) and Marine Aircraft Group 12 performed an elephant walk demonstration during a pre-planned readiness exercise at Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni, Japan, July 7, 2022. The demonstration included five U.S Marine Corps F/A-18 Hornets, eight F-35B Lightning IIs, a KC-130J Super Hercules aircraft, 10 U.S. Air Force F-22 Raptors and 10 F-35A Lightning II aircraft. The large formation exercise tested the units’ ability to rapidly generate joint airpower in support of the defense of Japan, ensuring the stability and security of a free and open Indo-Pacific region.
An elephant walk is a USAF term for the taxiing of military aircraft right before takeoff, when they are in close formation. Often, it takes place right before a minimum interval takeoff. The term elephant walk dates to World War II when large fleets of allied bombers would conduct attacks in missions containing 1,000 aircraft. Those who observed this said that the taxiing of these large numbers of aircraft to take off in single file in nose-to-tail formations said that they looked like elephants walking to the next watering hole. Over time, it was incorporated into the lexicon of the United States Air Force to identify a “maximum sortie surge”. The benefits of an elephant walk include being able to show the capability of the units as well as teamwork. It is often performed to prepare squadrons for wartime operations and to prepare pilots for the launching of fully armed aircraft in one mass event.
“It was a great opportunity for us to demonstrate our joint airpower capability alongside our MAG-12 partners with their various aircraft. This demonstration, and the joint training missions we flew afterwards, allowed us to improve our already formidable integration tactics with the U.S. Marine Corps,” said U.S. Air Force Col. David Berkland, 354th AEW commander.
The U.S. Air Force 354th Air Expeditionary Wing has been conducting agile combat employment training at MCAS Iwakuni for the past month. MCAS Iwakuni is uniquely qualified to enable the Joint Force, be it through providing use of the station’s collocated harbor and airfield, serving as a staging point for non-organic aircraft operations, or any number of other operational activities. Following the capabilities demonstration, the pilots conducted local training sorties in the approved training airspace around Iwakuni.
Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni or MCAS Iwakuni (Iwakuni hik?j?) (IATA: IWK, ICAO: RJOI) is a United States Marine Corps air station located in the Nishiki river delta, 1.3 NM (2.4 km; 1.5 mi) southeast of Iwakuni Station in the city of Iwakuni, Yamaguchi Prefecture, Japan. The first aircraft of Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 121 “Green Knights” (VMFA-121) arrived on 18 January 2017. This became the first forward deployed F-35B Lightning II squadron in the United States Marine Corps. It is currently home to around 5,000 United States Marines and family members. MCAS Iwakuni is also shared with the Japanese Maritime Self Defense Force.