Military Aviation

Check out video and photos of Elephant Walk conducted by USMC MV-22Bs and CH-53Es to celebrate the 75th Anniversary of D-Day

Twenty seven MV-22Bs and 16 CH-53Es with MAG 16, 3rd MAW, lined up as part of the mass flight at Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, Calif., on Jun. 6, 2019.

Elephant Walk USMC style. Twenty seven MV-22Bs and 16 CH-53Es with Marine Aircraft Group (MAG) 16, 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing (MAW), line up as part of the mass flight at Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, Calif., on Jun. 6, 2019. In a dynamic display of strength, the aircraft showcased the tactical capabilities and combat power the MAG-16 uses to defend the US and its allies.

“MAG-16 has executed our maximum flight event to demonstrate the combat readiness of our MAG and to tell the MAG-16 story” told Col. Craig C. LeFlore, commanding officer of MAG-16, to 1st Lt. Zachary Bodner, 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing, in the article MAG-16 Stands Ready. “We want to test ourselves. If there is a crisis somewhere in the world, our job is to be ready to respond to that crisis at a moment’s notice.

“MAG-16 is a force in readiness. This mass launch is not just for show, the majority of these aircraft will go out and conduct tactical training after their launch. Training that makes your Marines the most ready when our nation is least ready. I can’t think of a better way for the MAG to celebrate the 75th Anniversary of D-Day and the accomplishments of those who have gone before us,” LeFlore continued.

Training events and combat operations aren’t much different. Both require a massive “behind-the-scenes” effort that includes command and control, maintenance, logistics and training.  As the sun rose and fought off the ocean haze, MAG-16 moved with a palpable liveliness. The Marines and Sailors took great pride in their craft and were aggressive and focused on their pre-flight inspections and final preparations. Without the efforts of the disciplined maintainers and the observant inspections conducted by the noncommissioned officers, this evolution would not have been possible.

“MAG-16 provides the Marine Air-Ground Task Force (MAGTF) commander with the assault support transportation of combat troops, supplies and equipment, day or night under all weather conditions during expeditionary, joint or combined operations,” LeFlore explained.  A critical function of Marine Aviation, Assault Support enhances the MAGTF’s ability to concentrate strength against the enemy, focus and sustain combat power, and take full advantage of fleeting opportunities. Such functions are not new, however, as MAG-16 has demonstrated those abilities in combat operations in Iraq and Syria, as well as in humanitarian missions around the world.

MAG-16 accomplishes its mission through the hard work of its Marines and the machines they “Fix, Fly and Fight.” The MV-22B Osprey and CH-53E Super Stallion are the two platforms that comprise MAG-16. The MV-22B Osprey was first procured in 1999 and has been a cornerstone of the MAGTF ever since. What makes this aircraft unique is its ability to combine the vertical flight capabilities of helicopters with the speed, range and endurance of fixed-wing transports.  Weighing 35,000 pounds, the Osprey is capable of carrying more than 20 Marines more than 400 nautical miles at a cruise speed of 266 knots. The superb capabilities of the MV-22 translate into a faster MAGTF response in times of crisis. Those capabilities are put into practice around the world every day by MAG-16. Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron (VMM) 163, a squadron from MAG-16, is currently deployed in support of the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit.

The other aircraft in MAG-16’s arsenal is the CH-53E Super Stallion. The Super Stallion is the only heavy lift helicopter in the DoD rotorcraft inventory. Weighing 37,500 pounds, the Super Stallion can carry more than 30 Marines or over 32,000 pounds of cargo more than 110 nautical miles. The heavy lift capabilities of the Super Stallion are crucial to supporting the six different types of assault support operations ranging from combat assault support to air evacuation. The combined capabilities of these two aircraft have enabled MAG-16 to assist with humanitarian aid and disaster response efforts such as typhoons, earthquakes and California fire suppression. To be successful during such operations, it is vital that the Marines and Sailors of MAG-16 operate their aircraft and train their crews on a regular and sustainable basis.

When asked how the mass fly event went, LeFlore responded, “This launch not only demonstrated the capability within the MAG, it served as tremendous motivation for the Marines and Sailors who worked so hard to make it possible. I couldn’t be prouder of their accomplishments.”

The following video shows MV-22Bs CH-53Es that took part in this massive training evolution, lining up and taking off as part of a mass flight in an awesome display of combat power and capabilities.

Photo credit: Lance Cpl. Juan Anaya, Lance Cpl. Julian Elliott-Drouin / U.S. Marine Corps

Dario Leone

Dario Leone is an aviation, defense and military writer. He is the Founder and Editor of “The Aviation Geek Club” one of the world’s most read military aviation blogs. His writing has appeared in The National Interest and other news media. He has reported from Europe and flown Super Puma and Cougar helicopters with the Swiss Air Force.

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