Dubbed the first-ever "Elephant Walk" exercise to include stealth fighters, the Air Force said in statement that the drills were carried out to show the strength and readiness of the combat-ready F-35A units.
— Getty Images News (@GettyImagesNews) November 20, 2018
A total of 35 F-35A jets were launched during the exercise, with aircraft taking off in 20 to 40-second intervals, according to Air Force officials, which indicated that having multiple squadrons take off allows the units to better assess potential issues.
"We are ready to fight tonight, and exercising with multiple squadrons of F-35s can demonstrate our ability to defeat potential adversaries wherever they may arise," Maj. Caleb Guthmann, 34th Fighter Squadron assistant director of operations and exercise project officer, said in a statement on Monday.
— 419th Fighter Wing (@419fw) November 20, 2018
The Standard Examiner reported that all jets were in the air over an 11-minute period. Col. Michael Ebner, the vice commander of the 388th Fighter Wing, told the publication that the short-notice drill was a historic moment for the F-35A program, since it included the highest number of Lightning II jets to be simultaneously launched.
The official doubled down on the remarks made by Guthmann, saying that the fifth-generation fighter was a "global deterrent" against conflict that would work as an advisory to the US' enemies.
Hill AFB presently has 47 F-35s, with the remainder of the 78-strong fleet expected to arrive in 2019.
— 419th Fighter Wing (@419fw) November 19, 2018
In related F-35A news, the Lockheed Martin-manufactured jet marked a first at Florida's Eglin Air Force Base after successfully deploying a GBU-49 precision bomb during a combat training session that took place earlier this month.
"It's a really flexible weapon. It was reliable, accurate and effective," Lt. Col. Matthew Johnston, 34th Fighter Squadron commander, said. "Like any new weapon, what we learned, and what we will learn as we continue to train with the GBU-49, will directly impact our tactics and will make the F-35A even more lethal."
The test was conducted on November 7 by the 388th Fighter Wing's 34th Fighter Squadron.