US AIR Force has conducted its first ‘Elephant Walk’ exercise with the $100 million F-35A Joint Strike Fighter jet, which the service uses to demonstrate its ability to sortie large numbers of planes and “defeat potential adversaries wherever they may arise”.
On Tuesday, the 388th Fighter Wing and Air Force Reserve 419th Fighter Wing, located at Hill Air Force Base in Utah, launched 35 F-35As into the air at 20 to 40-second intervals. According to the Fighter Wing, these operations “present various challenges and allow the wings to evaluate the capabilities of maintenance professionals, as well as pilots and command and control teams”. A surge in combat operations may take place in any moment and it requires any number of available fighter planes.
Maj. Caleb Guthmann, 34th Fighter Squadron assistant director of operations and exercise project officer, said in a statement: “We are ready to fight tonight.
“And exercising with multiple squadrons of F-35s can demonstrate our ability to defeat potential adversaries wherever they may arise.”
Col. Michael Ebner, the vice commander of the 388th Fighter Wing, told the Standard Examiner that the drill was a historic moment for the F-35A program as it included the highest number of Lightning II jets to be simultaneously launched.
Mr Ebner also echoed Mr Guthmann’s words, claiming that the fighter was a “global deterrent” against US’ enemies.
Referring to the F-35A Lt. Col. Matthew Johnston, 34th Fighter Squadron commander, said: “It’s a really flexible weapon. It was reliable, accurate and effective.
“Like any new weapon, what we learned, and what we will learn as we continue to train with the GBU-49, will directly impact our tactics and will make the F-35A even more lethal.”
The military drill comes following the news the US is preparing to take a more active role in combating the expanding Chinese and Russian influence in Latin America.
According to US Air Force Chief of Staff General David Goldfein the US President is ready to take action in the south in order to prevent the undermining of key alliances.
Mr Golden said: “When it comes to China and Russia, we are looking at cooperation where we can and pushing back aggressively where we must.