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There Is Lightning on the Ground as F-35s Do an Elephant Walk

The U.S. Air Force’s (USAF) 388th Fighter Wing, based at the Hill Air Force Base in Utah, is known to both America’s friends and its enemies as one fielding the mighty F-35A Lightning II variant of the Lockheed Martin fifth-generation fighter aircraft.
F-35A Lightning IIs on an elephant walk 15 photos
F-35A Lightning IIs on an elephant walkF-35A Lightning II with the 495th Fighter SquadronF-35A Lightning II at Thunder and Lightning Over ArizonaF-35A Lightning II on vertical ascentF-35 Lightning buzzing the CN TowerF-35A Lighting IIF-35A Lightning IIF-35 LightningF-35A Lightning IIF-35A Lightning IIF-35A Lightning IIF-35A Lightning IIF-35 Lightning cruising subsonic into the sunsetF-35A Lightning II demo team schedule
And the unit does like to show that off, as it’s the one that supports the F-35 Demonstration Team, a constant presence at air shows across America for a number of years now. Because of that, and thanks to the inclination of the airmen serving within its ranks of snapping incredible instances of these flying beasts in action, it’s a military unit we’ve featured before here on autoevolution.

This time, it’s the turn of pilots that form the Wing’s 421st Fighter Squadron to come under the spotlight, as they lined up their flying offices for a coordinated taxi down the runway of the Nellis Air Force Base in Nevada, at the end of January. The 388th was detached there at the time for the Red Flag exercise, the Air Force's premier large-force combat simulation, and it acted as the lead wing for the proceedings.

A larger than usual number of aircraft lined up on the runway, like we have here, is what people generally refer to as an elephant walk, a moniker with murky beginning dating back to the years of the Second World War.

This time, we get at least four F-35s (that's how many we have in the photo) taxiing down the runway, one behind the other, with their massive side intakes at the ready, and the air behind them shimmering from the heat coming from the “most powerful fighter engine in the world,” the Pratt & Whitney F135 - 43,000 pounds of thrust pushing the aircraft to a top speed of Mach 1.6 and altitudes as high as 50,000 feet (15 km).

Editor's note: Gallery shows other F-35s.


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