El Paso, Texas (KTSM) – What’s an “elephant walk”?
Well, one was on display at Holloman Air Force Base in Alamogordo, New Mexico, on April 21.
Forty-nine aircraft, assigned to the 49th Wing, lined the runway for an awesome display of airpower and firepower.
An elephant walk is a tactic used by the U.S. Air Force to “display personnel, power and aircraft all at once,” according to a release sent out by Holloman AFB.
“When people mention Holloman Air Force Base, I want them to picture the aircraft and mission that’s displayed in today’s elephant walk,” said U.S. Air Force Col. Justin Spears, 49th Wing commander. “We have the largest F-16 Viper and MQ-9 Reaper training pipeline and this elephant walk showcases the amount of airpower and manpower we can generate.”
The term “elephant walk,” dates back to World War II when large bomber aircraft formations were commonplace. During this time, observers commented that the nose-to-tail formations that the bombers formed resembled that of elephant nose-to-tail formations when going to a watering hole, according to a news release sent out by Holloman.
Since the term was coined back in World War II, elephant walks are much more common and are used as a display of power for not just the Air Force, but also the Air Force bases that are conducting the event. They can also be used as a means of celebration and a morale booster.
“I think elephant walks are important as it shows our NATO partners and other allies around the world that we care about producing pilots and operators,” said U.S. Air Force Maj. Sean Robere, 311th Fighter Squadron, assistant director of operations. “It also shows other parts of the world that we are continuing to produce capable Airmen and aircraft.”
The F-16s used for the elephant walk are assigned to the 8th, 311th, and 314th Fighter Squadrons, and the MQ-9s are assigned to the 29th, 9th and 6th Attack Squadron at Holloman AFB. This also marks the first use of MQ-9s in an airpower display like this.
To put on an elephant walk display requires “an incredible effort put in by the Airmen across the wing, to include a huge lift from the 49th Maintenance Group, displaying their own skill and capabilities by launching 49 aircraft in such a short window,” according to the news release.
The 49th Wing is the largest F-16 and MQ-9 formal training unit in the Air Force, producing hundreds of combat-ready fighter pilots, remotely piloted aircraft pilots and sensor operators every year. These airmen go on to support American and Allied operations across the globe, according to Holloman officials.