18 KC-135s Line Up at MacDill, as USAF’s Surge in Elephant Walks Continues

Spread out over more than half a mile, 18 KC-135 Stratotankers lined up on the runway at MacDill Air Force Base, Fla., on April 26—the sixth Air Force elephant nationwide in the past six weeks. 

The event was part of MacDill’s Operation Violent Storm, an exercise designed to force units to work together to rapidly mobilize the fleet. More than 700 Airmen contributed to ready the KC-135s in less than six hours. 

“What Operation Violent Storm showcases is our ability to, in rapid succession, provide airpower for America,” said Col. Adam Bingham, 6th Air Refueling Wing commander, in a statement. “We are able to put booms in the air that fuel America’s strategic fighters and bombers who will ultimately be delivering hope and projecting violence at a time that America really needs it.” 

The operation was the 6th Air Refueling Wing’s first large-scale elephant walk since 2016, according to a release. Airmen from the 927th Air Refueling Wing, the 6th ARW’s Reserve associate unit, also participated, as did U.S. Army UH-60 Black Hawks assigned to the 5th Battalion. 

The MacDill event is the latest in a surge of “elephant walks” across the Air Force in recent weeks, all at different bases: 

Violent Storm was among the largest KC-135 elephant walks in memory—20 Stratotankers took off from Fairchild Air Force Base, Wash., in September 2021, while other tanker power displays are typically smaller, as with 12 at RAF Mildenhall and 14 at McConnell Air Force Base