Elephant Walk: the US, Japan, and Australia's Air Forces show off strength

In a major flex of combat readiness and split-second teamwork.
Ameya Paleja
Aircraft during the Elephant WalkPacific Air Forces Public Affairs

The U.S. Air Force partners up with its allies, Royal Australian Air Force and the Japan Air Self-Defense Force to conduct an incredible Elephant Walk, as part of its multilateral military exercise during Cope North 2022 at the Andersen Air Force Base, the Pacific Air Forces said in a press release

The elephant walk will take during the period from 2 to 18 February at Guam and the Commonwealth of Northern Mariana Islands and be the largest multilateral exercise of the U.S. Pacific Air Forces. The purpose of this joint exercise, on the other hand, is to boost the interoperability of the three air forces -- US Air Force (USAF), Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF), and Japan Air Self-Defense Force (Koku-Jieitai, JASDF) -- by providing them a space for sharing strategies, techniques, and procedures for humanitarian assistance and disaster relief (HADR) missions. 

Established as a quarterly bilateral exercise in 1978, Cope North was conducted at the Misawa Air Base in Japan until 1999, after which it moved base to Andersen AFB, the press release said. It is the largest multilateral exercise conducted by the U.S. Pacific Air Forces and during its recent iteration conducted an Elephant Walk along with its ally, the Royal Australian Air Force. 

What is an elephant walk?

The term Elephant walk dates back to World War II when large fleets, comprising of bomber aircraft from allied forces would be launched together to conduct bombing raids. The sheer size of the fleet readied in nose-to-tail formations is reminiscent of a large herd of elephants taking a walk. 

On its face value, an elephant walk is simply a brute display of the firepower of an allied force. It showcases the sheer number of advanced fighter jets participating in a military exercise that serves as a warning to adversaries. 

The participation of large military transport and cargo planes is also an opportunity for the two wings of the military to demonstrate and practice teamwork. While fighter jets and cargo planes are part of the Air Force, their operational demands and pace are very different, although that is also set for change. A carefully executed Elephant Walk is a great way to get all teams working in tandem towards a singularly focused mission. 

As Matsimus states in the video above, prior to the walk on the tarmac, these exercises start off from a zero point, where aircraft are not in a take-off ready configuration and the entire exercise is aimed at getting them armed and fueled in time for the walk. The practice of getting your aircraft armed and ready in a limited time frame not only prepares you for wartime crises but can also help in safeguarding these multi-million dollar assets from natural forces like a hurricane. On most occasions, an elephant walk ends in the aircraft being returned to their hangars. However, in some exercises, the aircraft also take off within their minimum intervals, making it quite a remarkable scene to witness. 

The elephant walk conducted at Andersen AFB was aimed to coordinate efforts of the U.S. Air Force and its allies in the event of a humanitarian crisis and deliver aid and relief measures while recovering from a natural disaster, the press release added. 

In June last year, the 55th Electronic Combat Group, responsible for operations and maintenance of the U.S. Air Force's airborne electronic attack platform conducted an elephant walk at the Davis-Monthan Air Force Base in Arizona. 

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