|Arthur Dominic Villasanta |||Apr 15, 2017 08:53 PM EDT|
(Photo : USAF) Elephant Walk by USAF warplanes at Kadena Air Base in Japan on April 14.
The U.S. Air Force conducted its second massive show of force in Asia in just 11 months with another "Elephant Walk," this one at the Kadena Air Base in Okinawa, Japan yesterday.
On display for North Korea and China to see were the warplanes of the 18th Wing stationed at Kadena. This combat wing is the largest combat-ready wing in the Air Force.
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It operates two squadrons of McDonnell Douglas F-15 Eagles air superiority fighters (32 aircraft); Boeing E-3 Sentry airborne early warning and control (AEW&C) aircraft; Sikorsky HH-60G Pave Hawk combat search and rescue helicopters and Boeing KC-135R Stratotanker military aerial refueling aircraft.
The 18th Wing is the largest combat unit in the Pacific Air Forces Fifth Air Force. Involved in the elephant walk were its two fighter squadrons: the 44th Fighter Squadron "Vampire Bats" (F-15C/D) and the 67th Fighter Squadron "Fighting Cocks" (F-15C/D).
The Pave Hawks are part of the 33d Rescue Squadron while the E-3 Sentry belong to the 961st Airborne Air Control Squadron. The KC-135s belong to the 909th Air Refueling Squadron "Young Tigers."
In May 2016, the Air Force conducted an Elephant Walk at Osan Air Base in South Korea involving of Fairchild A-10 Warthog ground attack aircraft and General Dynamics F-16 Fighting Falcons as part of Exercise Beverly Herd 16-01.
The A-10s were from the 25th Fighter Squadron "Draggins" while the F-16s were from the 36th Fighter Squadron "Fiends" of the 51st Fighter Wing.
An Elephant Walk involves taxiing entire squadrons of aircraft in close formation as they'd do in a short-notice wartime situation. The unannounced exercise at Kadena was held to prepare aircrews to respond quickly to an attack. It also serves as a show of force to potential aggressor nations in the surrounding region.
The Air Force said the Kadena Elephant Walk was undoubtedly triggered by growing tensions with North Korea over the past weeks. The reclusive communist state continues to develop nuclear weapons, in response to which the U.S. recently sent the USS Carl Vinson (CVN-70) carrier strike group to patrol in the Sea of Japan off the east coast of the Korean Peninsula.
The Air Force and the U.S. Marines are massing aircraft in Japan and South Korea. At the start of the year, the Marines deployed the first 10 Lockheed Martin F-35B Joint Strike Fighters belonging to Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 121 (VMFA-121) to Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni in Japan, marking the first permanent international deployment of the U.S. stealth fighter.
VMFA 121, also known as the "Green Knights," flies the Marine Corps version of the Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II, the F-35B. This variant is a short takeoff and vertical landing (STOVL) jet that will replace current inventories of both the F/A-18 Hornet and the AV-8B Harrier II in the fighter and attack roles.
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