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Why Did the Air Force Launch 24 Stealth F-22 Raptors All At Once?

David Axe
(U.S. Air Force photo by Justin Connaher)

David Axe


Elephant walk time.

Why Did the Air Force Launch 24 Stealth F-22 Raptors All At Once?

In simultaneously marching 24 F-22s and a C-17 -- not to mention an E-3 radar plane -- Elmendorf proved that, despite the Raptor fleet's readiness woes and ongoing relocation, the Alaska wing is ready to fight.

A U.S. Air Force wing in Alaska managed to launch 24 F-22 Raptor stealth fighters plus an E-3 radar plane and a C-17 transport, all in quick succession.

(This first appeared last month.)

The dramatic "elephant walk" at Elmendorf Air Force Base was more than an impressive photo-op. It showed off much of the new, bigger F-22 force at the base, underscored the resident 3rd Wing's apparently improving maintenance capabilities and underscored the Air Force's evolving strategy for deploying F-22s and other planes in self-sustaining small groups.

The Elmendorf elephant walk took place on March 26, 2019 during the Polar Force war game. "This two-week exercise gives squadrons an opportunity to demonstrate their abilities to forward-deploy and deliver overwhelming combat air power," the base stated.

The two dozen F-22s that participated in the mass take-off apparently account for around half of the Raptors that the 3rd Wing's two fighter squadrons operate.

The 3rd Wing in late 2018 possessed just 42 Raptors. After a hurricane devastated Tyndall Air Force Base in Florida in October of that year, the Air Force began distributing that base's 55 F-22s to other facilities. Elmendorf got at least six F-22s from Tyndall's front-line 95th Fighter Squadron.

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