On Monday around 11 am, the U.S. Air Force organized a power-move involving the launch of 52 F-35A fighter jets from a Utah airbase. F-35A Lightning II fighters took off one after another for over a 10-minute period.
The 388th and 419th Fighter Wings conducted the launch exercise by sending the jets West to the Utah Test and Training Range to perform various missions. The images of the “elephant walk”, which is the term for military planes standing in close formation just before taking off, has hit the internet and they are quite stunning.
The walk started with a mass of fighters surging out from their hangars. After a photo opportunity, all the planes were launched into the air, one after the other.
The exercise was planned as a culminating event after the two fighter wings received their fighter jets. The Air Force described it as a demonstration of the U.S. Air Force’s ability to conduct large-scale combat deployment in a short time.
388th Fighter Wing Vice Commander Col. Michael Ebner made some comments about the impressive exercise.
Today we launched about 50 F-35s in rapid succession. Part of a long-planned combat power exercise with @388fw, we pushed the boundaries and tested our Airmen’s ability to deploy @thef35 en masse. We’re ready to fly, fight, and win. @usairforce @USAFReserve @USAF_ACC pic.twitter.com/QskjR6lsch— 419th Fighter Wing (@419fw) January 6, 2020
These elephant walks are meant as a show of force and demonstrate power. However, as you'd imagine, they are expensive. The jets cost $44,000 an hour to fly, and this means that the Air Force can buy a brand new F-35A for the cost of seventeen exercises. It is a hefty price; however, it is meant to strengthen the base's muscles.