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24 Raptors do the "Elephant Walk" in Alaska

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It's a relatively new thing, presumably to show the world the might of America.  They just did another one with an F-16 unit in Germany.

 

Personally, I'd be more impressed seeing 24 Raptors in the air simultaneously but that's apparently not part of the program. 

 

 

Edited by 11bee

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Elephant Walks aren't exactly new, they date back to WW2 when the numbered Air Forces in Europe would often generate in excess of 1,000 airplanes for mission over the European theater of operations. By the observers of these Air Force elephant walks it was often referred to as that because of the nose-to-tail taxi formations of the bombers; often resembling the nose-to-tail lines that elephants would walk in to move to the next watering hole. During World War II each combat group had four squadrons of aircraft to draw from to meet the mission requirements. Throughout the European theater elephant walks were daily occurrences that not only generated airplanes, but also constantly tested the capabilities of the ground crews, supply systems, and other support organizations.

In the SAC days, the term for the exercise was was "maximum sortie generation” (or surging). They were used as a tool by inspector general inspections (IG inspections) to test the capabilities of a wings levels of operations and mission readiness. An elephant walk, when used in IG inspection were sometimes limited to “taxi only” exercises and usually didn’t involve any airplanes taking off. In the 1980’s as many as 120 F-111’s took to the skies in part of a United States Air Forces in Europe surge operation exercise.

After the combat operations in Operation Desert Storm had ended, the 23/354 TFW celebrated the end of combat with an elephant walk of 144 A-10’s.

Their modern origins are somewhat grim. They became common in South Korea as a capabilities display and contribute to the readiness of American and allied squadrons in South Korea and nearby countries. In the event of war with North Korea, the plan is to quickly target the roughly 13,000 artillery pieces that Pyongyang has massed along the Korean demilitarized zone. In the early hours of a war, that artillery likely would bombard Seoul, which lies just 25 miles south of the DMZ. That's a serious, credible threat to the 25 million Koreas and approximately 150,000 U.S. citizens living in the greater Seoul metropolitan area. The US maintains three F-16 squadrons and an A-10 squadron in South Korea and two F-15 squadrons in Japan. Additional squadrons, almost certainly including F-22 and F-35 units, would join them during a crisis. An air campaign targeting North Korea would require 2,000 sorties per day. 

By comparison, the allied air war over Iraq and Kuwait in January 1991 averaged 1,200 strike sorties per day and the U.S.-led campaign against Islamic State in Iraq and Syria averaged just 15 strikes per day. The roughly 100 U.S. F-16s and A-10s in South Korea and Japan — and any F-22s and F-35s that deployed in time for the first day of fighting — likely would be the first to hit North Korean artillery. And they’d have to launch fast to save lives in Seoul. So it’s not for no reason that the 7th Air Force in South Korea and Japan has organized more elephant walks than most Air Force commands have done.

The 7th Air Force has conducted most of its mass-takeoffs, which require intensive planning and maintenance efforts, under the auspices of the annual Vigilante Ace exercise. This is why so many elephant walk photos are of Vipers and Hogs.

Those Raptors in OP's post are PACAF jets from JBER. They'd be a part of any campaign against North Korea, so it would make sense for them to participate in such readiness exercise, even if they're still at home. F-35s at Hill have started doing them as well.

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Elephant Walks aren't exactly new, they date back to WW2 when the numbered Air Forces in Europe would often generate in excess of 1,000 airplanes for mission over the European theater of operations. By the observers of these Air Force elephant walks it was often referred to as that because of the nose-to-tail taxi formations of the bombers; often resembling the nose-to-tail lines that elephants would walk in to move to the next watering hole. During World War II each combat group had four squadrons of aircraft to draw from to meet the mission requirements. Throughout the European theater elephant walks were daily occurrences that not only generated airplanes, but also constantly tested the capabilities of the ground crews, supply systems, and other support organizations.

In the SAC days, the term for the exercise was was "maximum sortie generation” (or surging). They were used as a tool by inspector general inspections (IG inspections) to test the capabilities of a wings levels of operations and mission readiness. An elephant walk, when used in IG inspection were sometimes limited to “taxi only” exercises and usually didn’t involve any airplanes taking off. In the 1980’s as many as 120 F-111’s took to the skies in part of a United States Air Forces in Europe surge operation exercise.

After the combat operations in Operation Desert Storm had ended, the 23/354 TFW celebrated the end of combat with an elephant walk of 144 A-10’s.

Their modern origins are somewhat grim. They became common in South Korea as a capabilities display and contribute to the readiness of American and allied squadrons in South Korea and nearby countries. In the event of war with North Korea, the plan is to quickly target the roughly 13,000 artillery pieces that Pyongyang has massed along the Korean demilitarized zone. In the early hours of a war, that artillery likely would bombard Seoul, which lies just 25 miles south of the DMZ. That's a serious, credible threat to the 25 million Koreas and approximately 150,000 U.S. citizens living in the greater Seoul metropolitan area. The US maintains three F-16 squadrons and an A-10 squadron in South Korea and two F-15 squadrons in Japan. Additional squadrons, almost certainly including F-22 and F-35 units, would join them during a crisis. An air campaign targeting North Korea would require 2,000 sorties per day. 

By comparison, the allied air war over Iraq and Kuwait in January 1991 averaged 1,200 strike sorties per day and the U.S.-led campaign against Islamic State in Iraq and Syria averaged just 15 strikes per day. The roughly 100 U.S. F-16s and A-10s in South Korea and Japan — and any F-22s and F-35s that deployed in time for the first day of fighting — likely would be the first to hit North Korean artillery. And they’d have to launch fast to save lives in Seoul. So it’s not for no reason that the 7th Air Force in South Korea and Japan has organized more elephant walks than most Air Force commands have done.

The 7th Air Force has conducted most of its mass-takeoffs, which require intensive planning and maintenance efforts, under the auspices of the annual Vigilante Ace exercise. This is why so many elephant walk photos are of Vipers and Hogs.

Those Raptors in OP's post are PACAF jets from JBER. They'd be a part of any campaign against North Korea, so it would make sense for them to participate in such readiness exercise, even if they're still at home. F-35s at Hill have started doing them as well.

 

Trigger,

  Good writeup.  Elephant walks were also frequently done at NATO European bases during the height of the Cold War.

 

Regards,

Murph

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It is a cool photo Murph.....the dollar amount for all those plane is humbling.

 

Regarding the N Korean artillery targeting Seoul, is it not possible to target these with land based guided missiles?

 

I have heard they are hidden inside tunnels on the northern side of hills, but is it not possible to target them with modern missile tech?

 

I would think pre-programed missiles could do the job in the first 30 minutes.

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Regarding the N Korean artillery targeting Seoul, is it not possible to target these with land based guided missiles?

 

I have heard they are hidden inside tunnels on the northern side of hills, but is it not possible to target them with modern missile tech?

 

I would think pre-programed missiles could do the job in the first 30 minutes.


Cruise missiles are great against fixed targets such as tunnel entrances, but: 
A. By its very nature, artillery can be moved rapidly.
B. Do you know where all the tunnel entrances are located? Because that's one hell of a gamble when there are 25 million people in the crosshairs
C. In 1991, only 288 TLAMs were used. 325 were fired in 1998's Operation Desert Fox. The most fired was 2003's invasion of Iraq at 802. Those numbers are over the entire course of those conflicts. In Korea, you'll need to run around 2,000 sorties a day. Cruise missiles will be a part of that, but they can't carry that load.

You need platforms that can redirect, retarget, and locate targets on their own. That means you'll need a human element. The best tank killers in 1991 wasn't cruise missiles, or even A-10s. It was the F-111, dropping 500-lb LGBs onto Iraqi tanks in the dead of night. Designate the target with Pave Tack; one bomb, one kill.

Edited by Trigger

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Cruise missiles are great against fixed targets such as tunnel entrances, but: 
A. By its very nature, artillery can be moved rapidly.
B. Do you know where all the tunnel entrances are located? Because that's one hell of a gamble when there are 25 million people in the crosshairs
C. In 1991, only 288 TLAMs were used. 325 were fired in 1998's Operation Desert Fox. The most fired was 2003's invasion of Iraq at 802. Those numbers are over the entire course of those conflicts. In Korea, you'll need to run around 2,000 sorties a day. Cruise missiles will be a part of that, but they can't carry that load.

You need platforms that can redirect, retarget, and locate targets on their own. That means you'll need a human element. The best tank killers in 1991 wasn't cruise missiles, or even A-10s. It was the F-111, dropping 500-lb LGBs onto Iraqi tanks in the dead of night. Designate the target with Pave Tack; one bomb, one kill.

Interesting discussion and one I’m sure the US has put a great deal of thought into.  As simple speculation, I’d think that once you have degraded NK’s air defense capabilities, persistent armed UAV orbits over the area would be the most effective.   You only have a brief window to engage the artillery piece before it goes back into its hardened tunnel. Only drawback is where you launch and recover them from.  NK has a massive special operations capability and between those troops and their huge inventory of long range rockets / guided missiles the main US airbases will probably not be in existence after the first night.    

 

Sure hope we never get to that point.  

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...between those troops and their huge inventory of long range rockets / guided missiles the main US airbases will probably not be in existence after the first night.    

 

Which is why they do the elephant walks. They have to practice launching all their aircraft.

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Which is why they do the elephant walks. They have to practice launching all their aircraft.

Then why not practice actually launching them?   Wouldn’t that be more useful than having an entire squadron trundling slowly down the runway in a closely packed gaggle? 

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Then why not practice actually launching them?   Wouldn’t that be more useful than having an entire squadron trundling slowly down the runway in a closely packed gaggle? 

Read my original post; "constantly tested the capabilities of the ground crews, supply systems, and other support organizations." The walks aren't for the pilots' readiness, they're for the ground crews' benefit.

However, when they need to drill readiness for both ground and flight crews, they would. "In the 1980’s as many as 120 F-111’s took to the skies in part of a United States Air Forces in Europe surge operation exercise."

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wrt the Korean situation, it's not just US forces sitting at or demonstrating readiness.  Back in the day I spent three weeks in S Korea - a couple of days in Seoul, a couple at Osan, and the rest at an undisclosed RoKAF base.  They had (let's say more than one)  F-16s on alert, fully loaded, engines running, canopies shut, at EOR (not in a hangar) 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.  They rotated about every 2 hours IIRC, but they (RoKAF) were at a CONSTANT state of readiness.

 

It was quite sobering.

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Wow, really great info guys. I had no idea of the background of the Elephant Walk and its current implications. Makes sense though, in terms of operational readiness and the ability to field large numbers of aircraft effectively. Really interesting, Thanks!

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24 Raptors represent about almost 15% of the F-22 fleet. A sad commentary on the current state of US air power.

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Cruise missiles are great against fixed targets such as tunnel entrances, but: 
A. By its very nature, artillery can be moved rapidly.
B. Do you know where all the tunnel entrances are located? Because that's one hell of a gamble when there are 25 million people in the crosshairs
C. In 1991, only 288 TLAMs were used. 325 were fired in 1998's Operation Desert Fox. The most fired was 2003's invasion of Iraq at 802. Those numbers are over the entire course of those conflicts. In Korea, you'll need to run around 2,000 sorties a day. Cruise missiles will be a part of that, but they can't carry that load.

You need platforms that can redirect, retarget, and locate targets on their own. That means you'll need a human element. The best tank killers in 1991 wasn't cruise missiles, or even A-10s. It was the F-111, dropping 500-lb LGBs onto Iraqi tanks in the dead of night. Designate the target with Pave Tack; one bomb, one kill.

 

 

Interesting discussion and one I’m sure the US has put a great deal of thought into.  As simple speculation, I’d think that once you have degraded NK’s air defense capabilities, persistent armed UAV orbits over the area would be the most effective.   You only have a brief window to engage the artillery piece before it goes back into its hardened tunnel. Only drawback is where you launch and recover them from.  NK has a massive special operations capability and between those troops and their huge inventory of long range rockets / guided missiles the main US airbases will probably not be in existence after the first night.    

 

Sure hope we never get to that point.  

 

Thanks guys....this helps answer my questions. 

I figure the firing area for the artillery would be destroyed by cruise missiles leaving the artillery stuck in their tunnel unable to move into a firing position.  Then the airforce would slowly destroy the tunnel entrances.  But to be honest I do not have a firm grasp of the inner workings of the military and their abilities.

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24 Raptors represent about almost 15% of the F-22 fleet. A sad commentary on the current state of US air power.

And of those 24, how many could actually be considered mission capable?   At one point, less than half.   Sure makes for a pretty picture though. 

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You’re also completely ignoring counter battery fire from American and S Korean artillery and rocket forces. 

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You’re also completely ignoring counter battery fire from American and S Korean artillery and rocket forces. 

Just need to keep in mind that the good guys are outranged by many of the bad guy’s systems  and are outnumbered by a wide margin (wasn’t it something like 8-1 or even higher?).  Plus it’s pretty hard to hit a dug in target on a reverse slope, especially when that target is only exposed for a short time.   The North Koreans also have counter-battery radar and targeting UAV’s, so you can’t assume our units wouldn’t be targeted.    I’d think that air power would be a much more effective solution (again assuming the airbases stay intact).  

 

Hope Dear Leader stays on his meds and things never boil over.  

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