Yesterday, Hill Air Force Base in Utah was the site of a massive display of air power. A formation made up of 35 of America’s trouble trophy-horse F-35 Joint Strike Fighters rolled down the runway in tight formation before executing a minimum interval takeoff of all aircraft involved.

Traditionally, elephant walks of this sort are carried out with a full armament of weapons — as the drill is meant to train pilots and crews for a conflict that might require launching a massive air response quickly and effectively. Although no weapons are visible on the F-35s at Hill Air Force Base on Monday, it stands to reason that they were likely equipped with some bombs or air-to-air missiles stored within their internal weapons bays.

“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,” said Maj. Caleb Guthmann, 34th Fighter Squadron assistant director of operations and exercise project officer.

According to the Air Force, the event also alloted commanders the opportunity to assess the level of readiness they can expect from their Airmen.

“Launching aircraft from multiple squadrons simultaneously presents various challenges and allows the wings to evaluate the capabilities of maintenance professionals, as well as pilots and command and control teams,” the Air Force release states.

With only a few more than 300 F-35s produced thus far, Monday’s exercises included just about 10% of all F-35s in existence.

According to an Air Force release, the fighters conducted between 30 and 60 sorties on Monday, with the F-35s taking off in just 20 to 40 second intervals throughout.

The fighters that participated all hailed from the Air Force’s two operational F-35 Fighter Wings, the 388th and its reserve counterpart, the 419th.


Image courtesy of the U.S. Air Force