The 8th Fighter Wing “Wolf Pack” based at Kunsan Air Base in South Korea put on a rare early morning “elephant walk” sortie generation exercise earlier this week. The idea behind the drill is to push ground crews to their limits by making them prep as many combat-ready jets as possible at short notice. The result is this dramatic image.
The jets don’t take off during the exercise as this is not a flight training event. Instead, they all roll down the runway in a massive hissing formation to replicate a sortie before being de-armed and taxied back to their shelters.
The elephant walk drill was part of a larger exercise known as “Beverly Pack” which pushes the Wolf Pack to operate as if it were under wartime and extreme alert conditions. Staff Sargent Brandon Rachuy, a crew chief with the 80th Aircraft Maintenance Unit who maintains, launch and recovers the Wolf Pack’s jets, describes the value of these types of exercises in a recent Air Force article:
“The exercises here leave us with a more accurate mind set of what a real time incident would be like. I think it’s extremely important for younger airmen because they get a taste of what it would be like if we went into a contingency scenario and had to prep the jets in an extremely short time period.”
The fact that the 8th Fighter Wing executes these drills in the dark comes as no surprise, as they are equipped to fight regardless of the time of day. Their Block 40 F-16C/Ds, some of which are now upgraded to F-16CM/DM standard, were purpose-built to be all-weather interdiction fighters.
If war were to break out on the Peninsula there is a high likelihood it would occur at night, based on North Korea’s tactics. The Wolf Pack’s F-16s have to be ready to launch in masse at a moment’s notice.
The drill, and the images from it, also work as a reminder to North Korea of what they are up against should an outright conflict occur. Compared to the spattering of dated (if not antique, in some cases) MiGs the North sporadically operates, the amount of advanced air power on hand in South Korea is truly daunting.
Just for reference, here is what the same drill looks like during the day, albeit with more F-16s from both the Republic of South Korea Air Force and the USAF:
Top shot credit: U.S Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Nick Wilson
Contact the author at Tyler@jalopnik.com.