The Air Force’s surge of “elephant walks” in recent moves has showcased airpower and Airmen’s ability to rapidly generate airpower.
But at Osan Air Base, South Korea, in early May, Airman took the concept to another level: more than 50 aircraft from two bases on the Korean peninsula.
Two U-2 Dragon Ladys, three C-12 Hurons, 12 A-10 Thunderbolt IIs, and 36 F-16 Fighting Falcons all gathered at Osan for a large-scale training event on May 5. In images released May 31, the 51st Fighter Wing referred to the event as a “mammoth walk,” typically used to describe an elephant walk that features all of the available aircraft at a base.
The 51st Fighter Wing at Osan contributed A-10s and F-16s to the exercise, while the 8th Fighter Wing at Kunsan Air Base added F-16s. The U-2s belong to the 5th Reconnaissance Squadron stationed at Osan.
“The large aircraft generation training event demonstrated the wings’ rapid generation capabilities and response readiness,” the 51st FW said in a press release. “The combined ability of 7th Air Force and our partner units at Osan Air Base to generate combat airpower at a moment’s notice affirm that our commitment to the Republic of Korea remains ironclad and ensure regional stability throughout the Indo-Pacific.”
The presence of the 8th Fighter Wing at Osan comes amidst runway repair work at Kunsan, which is expected to be completed by August.
Exercise Beverly Midnight 23-1 in South Korea stretched from May 4-12, on the heals of the Korea Flying Training exercise that took place April 17-28. B-1 and B-52 bombers have flown repeated sorties over or near the Peninsula throughout the year, in shows of force intended to reassure South Korea and remind North Korea of U.S. reach.
Also in May, a U.S. F-16 from the 8th Fighter Wing crashed near Osan, bursting into a fiery wreck after the pilot safely ejected.
The “mammoth walk” in South Korea was at least the seventh elephant walk or mass generation exercise at a USAF base in the past four months:
- Seven E-3 Sentry airborne warning and control, or AWACS, aircraft participated in a “weather flush” on March 21 at Tinker Air Force Base, Okla.
- 20 mobility aircraft—seven KC-135 Stratotankers, eight C-17 Globemaster IIIs, and five KC-46 Pegasus—also participated in a severe weather exercise March 24 at Altus Air Force Base, Okla.
- 21 tankers—16 KC-46s and five KC-135s—lined up as part of an Agile Combat Employment exercise at McConnell Air Force Base, Kan., also on March 24.
- 4,000 Airmen and 80 trainer aircraft gathered on the runway at Sheppard Air Force Base, Texas, on April 7, to showcase the power of its people as well as its planes.
- 49 aircraft—40 F-16 fighters and nine MQ-9 drones—showed off the airpower at Holloman Air Force Base, N.M. on April 21.
- 18 KC-135 Stratotankers lined up on the runway at MacDill Air Force Base, Fla., on April 26.
Going back a few months further, Airmen at Kadena Air Base, Japan, executed a 36-airframe elephant walk featuring six aircraft types in November 2022.