Air Force stages ‘elephant walk’ at Utah base, launches 52 fighter jets in a row

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HILL AIR FORCE BASE, Utah (CBS News)— The U.S. Air Force conducted an exercise involving the launch of 52 fighter jets from a Utah air base, officials said. Hill Air Force Base launched the F-35A Lightning II fighters over a 10-minute period around 11 a.m. Monday, the 388th Fighter Wing announced.

The 388th and 419th Fighter Wings conducted the combat exercise that sent the jets west to the Utah Test and Training Range to perform various missions. The 419th Fighter Wing posted images of the “elephant walk” — the term for military planes taxiing in close formation just before takeoff.

Col. Michael Ebner, the 388th vice commander, said Monday’s exercise had been planned as a “culminating event” after the two fighter wings received their full complement of fighter jets.

While the effort was intended to demonstrate an ability to conduct large-scale combat deployment in a short time, it was not in direct response to the United States’ escalating situation with Iran, Ebner said.

“That’s completely coincidental,” Ebner said.

However, Ebner acknowledged that the impressive exercise was designed to send a message.

“The message is not just to potential adversaries, but it’s also to our nation’s leadership that they can count on the 388th Fighter Wing to support the combat power that they plan and require us to provide,” Ebner told the Deseret News.

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