Here’s Why 24 F-22 Raptors Suddenly Went Airborne Last Spring

Here’s Why 24 F-22 Raptors Suddenly Went Airborne Last Spring

David Axe


An important wargame.

Key point: The presence in the elephant walk of one of Elmendorf’s C-17s is notable.

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.

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.

The 43rd Fighter Squadron, a training unit at Tyndall, temporarily set up shop with 28 F-22s at Eglin Air Force Base in Florida. The Air Force in late March 2019 announced that those jets permanently would relocate to Langley Air Force Base in Virginia, pending Congressional approval.

Langley, which was home to two front-line F-22 squadrons, also took in some of the ex-95th Fighter Squadron Raptors, as did the Air National Guard wing at Hickam Air Force Base in Hawaii.

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