Military Aviation

JASDF F-35As join USAF and US Navy aircraft in Misawa first joint, bilateral Elephant Walk

12 F-16s took to the runway, along with 12 JASDF F-35As, two USN EA-18Gs, a USN C-12 Huron, two USAF MC-130J Commando II aircraft from Kadena Air Base, a USN P-8 Poseidon, and a JASF CH-47 Chinook photoship.

 Taken on Jun. 23, 2020 at Misawa Air Base (AB) the pictures in this post feature members of the 35th Fighter Wing doing a joint and bilateral “Elephant Walk” formation composed of 31 aircraft. The drill was a readiness exercise, designed to validate the wing’s ability to rapidly generate combat airpower.

“The goal of this exercise was to execute a short notice, agile combat execution-style deployment and generation,” said Maj. Brannan Studley, 35th Fighter Wing director of wing inspections. “We learned a lot, refined our training, and demonstrated we’re ready to fight, which is even more critical in the middle of COVID-19 operations.” As told by Capt. Lauren Linscott, 35th Fighter Wing Public Affairs, in the article Misawa Air Base demonstrates its combat readiness in first joint, bilateral Elephant Walk, this exercise and demonstration touched on all five of the Air Force core missions: Air and Space Superiority, Global Strike, Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance, Rapid Global Mobility, and Command and Control.

After the conclusion of the generation portion of the exercise, 12 newly-configured F-16s took to the runway, along with 12 Koku-Jieitai (Japan Air Self-Defense Force) F-35A Lightning II Joint Strike Fighters, two U.S. Navy EA-18G Growlers, a USN C-12 Huron, two USAF MC-130J Commando II aircraft from Kadena Air Base, a USN P-8 Poseidon, and a Koku-Jieitai CH-47 Chinook photoship.

With the exception of the MC-130Js, the rest of the aircraft that participated are assigned to Misawa Air Base.

“Seeing our forces and our partners and allies taxi to the runway in one formation, as one fighting force, really brought home my last two years of command,” said Col. Kristopher Struve, 35th Fighter Wing commander. “I’m grateful to our Navy counterparts and Koku-Jieitai allies for their continued efforts in enhancing our interoperability and continuing to improve on our collective capabilities. Misawa Air Base would not be the combat-ready force it is without them.

U.S. Air Force Col Kristopher Struve, left, 35th Fighter Wing commander, and Koku-Jieitai Maj. Gen. Takahiro Kubota, 3rd Air Wing commander, shake hands in front of aircraft participating in an “Elephant Walk” at Misawa Air Base, Jun. 23, 2020. 

This demonstration took the work of many agencies and individuals across the base, and the 35th Fighter Wing is grateful to our partners for showcasing the amazing, combat-ready force available to our Indo-Pacific leaders if called upon during a crisis.”

This was Misawa Air Base’s first bilateral and joint Elephant Walk.  

This print is available in multiple sizes from – CLICK HERE TO GET YOURS. F-35A Lightning II 56th OG, 61st FS, LF/12-5050 / 2014

Photo credit: SSgt Melanie Bulow-Gonterman, Tech. Sgt. Timothy Moore and Airman 1st Class China M. Shock / U.S. Air Force

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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