FIFTY-TWO: Hill Air Force Base executes the mother of all elephant walks with 52 F-35s

| January 7, 2020


‘Completely coincidental’: Air Force launches 52 fighter jets in training exercise

GDContractor and Mason send us links about an Air Force display known as an “Elephant Walk” which in this case involved 52 F-35As*. Pretty impressive display, as intended.

The 388th and 419th Fighter Wings that call Hill Air Force Base in Utah home have just executed a massive readiness drill that included an ‘elephant walk’ of a whopping 52 F-35As. The exercise coincides with the wings reaching full strength following the transition to the F-35A, a process that began years ago.

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.

Cool videos here: Deep Clips

Read the article here: Washington Times

Thanks Mason and GDC!

*F-35A- Air Force Conventional T/O and Landing
F-35B- Marine Short T/O Vertical Landing
F-35C- Navy Carrier version

Category: Air Force, Blue Skies, Guest Link

Comments (52)

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  1. ninja says:

    AW1Ed, Mason and GDC (and Ex-PH2 for the post about North Korea):

    Thank you for sharing this.

    Your post led me to Deep Clips where I found an interesting You Tube Video from CBS News about the FBI investigating mysterious drones flying over Colorado, Nebraska and Kansas.

    The comments are entertaining because there are discussions about the Military, Iran and North Korea being involved (smile):

  2. Sapper3307 says:

    Looks like an expensive new car dealership.
    What’s the cost, fellow ninja’s?

    • AW1Ed says:

      Like most things military, it depends on variant and lot number. The F-35A current cost is $78 million, the F-35B $101.3 million, the F-35C are $94.4 million.

      Yes, that’s each.

      • ninja says:

        Do those costs include everything, i.e. personnel, fuel, maintenance, etc or just for the aircraft alone?

        • rgr769 says:

          That is likely unit cost per aircraft, including any spares that come with it.

          • Hondo says:

            Flyaway cost, actually, which doesn’t include initial spares/TMDE/initial fielding /misc other costs that are funded with procurement dollars. Also doesn’t include RDT&E or MILCON.

            Add those other costs, and the unit cost to date for an F-35 more than doubles the above figure (see my comment below).

        • Devtun says:

          Yeah, that would be one hell of a bargain if that were the case. Operational, logistic, personnel and maintenance costs far outstrip the aircraft sticker price many times over.

        • AW1Ed says:

          It’s an estimated $1.5 TRILLION USD program over the life cycle of the platforms- through 2055. Those distant popping sounds were Lockheed executive’s Golden Parachutes opening.

        • Hondo says:

          No. And those costs are actually a “lowball” figure by over 50%.

          What’s quoted here are the “flyaway costs” – e.g. the marginal cost of producing the last item. They do NOT include any portion of the program’s sunk costs (e.g., RDT&E and MILCON).

          As of today, RDT&E and MILCON for the F35 total just under $60 Billion ($55.1B + $4.8B, respectively). Allocate those over the 455 F-35s of all types produced to date, and you add $131.65M to the cost of each aircraft produced to date. This brings the actual unit cost of the next F-35 to roll off the line to well over $200M. And even that isn’t the total unit cost (see next para).

          Program managers love to use flyaway costs when discussing the unit price of the system. Why? Because it understates significantly the actual unit cost of each item by omitting sunk costs. During the early part of a systems development and production, it often omits over half of the total program cost spent to date. It also excludes the cost of required initial spare parts, fielding, TMDE, and selected other costs funded via initial procurement funding; these are not insignificant, and can add another 10% or so to unit flyaway cost.

          The “plan” (that’s in quotations for a reason) is for the US to produce 2,663 F-35s. Should that happen, and should only an additional $5B be spent over the lifetime of the program on RDT&E (IMO a low figure), the RDT&E/MILCON “share” of the F-35’s actual unit cost will fall to about $25M per airframe. That means it will likely always be a $100M+ airframe.

          And if you think we’ll buy all 2,663 airframes that are currently planned – well, dream on. The original production plan for the B2 was 132 aircraft. It was later reduced to 75, and we actually bought 21 – which is why it ended up being a $2+B aircraft. (Like the F-35, RDT&E for that bird was quite high as well.) The same is true for the F-22 (high R&D cost, much lower than expected production numbers, resulting in a rather high actual unit cost per airframe).

  3. Mick says:

    Heh heh heh!

    Sitting here chuckling to myself when I think about these F-35 guys trying to elbow one another out of the way in order to be the first into the fight if the Iranian Mad Mullahs are stupid enough to launch any aircraft against us from their clown show “air force”.

    Heh heh heh!

    I’m thinking that it’ll end up being known as “The Great Persian Gulf Turkey Shoot”.

    Heh heh heh!

    • AW1Ed says:

      They’ll be flicking collar lapels at each other-

      “My Oak Leaves trump your Railroad Tracks, Captain!”

      “Wrong color, Major!”

      “Bird is the word, boys. Stand down!”

      A fitting end would be a repeat of Operation Vengeance, the shoot-down of Admiral Yamamoto, this time starring the Mad Mullahs.

    • 5th/77th FA says:

      My Freedom Boner turned into an involuntary vascular reaction.

  4. Club Manager, USA ret. says:

    Hill AFB patch is a pretty decent place, we used to shop there when stationed at Dugway Proving Ground. Hill has its own ski slope other side of Odgen. Of the two unites involved, the 388th is regular Air Force but the 419th Fighter Wing is AF Reserve. I remembered Hill as more of a logistics center and a good place to catch hops from.

    • rgr769 says:

      Hill has an excellent air museum. I used to catch hops at Hill when I was in ROTC. Flew in the cockpit of a C-141 to Travis once back in 1967.

    • CCO says:

      Howdy; I was TDY at Dugway in ‘94. Still my Pony Expess tee shirt.

      • Club Manager, USA ret. says:

        Who did you piss off to be sent TDY there?
        I was Director of Community Activities from 89′ – 96′ so your stay was during my watch. You probably caught Thursday night pizza at the club and ate at the new Ditto Diner. You should have seen the shit hole they had before that. Hope you brought home a Dugway Geode.

        • CCO says:

          I didn’t bring home a geode; some did go out in the mud and get some.
          Two-thirds of my company was there for the Biological Integrated Detection System (BIDS) reliability, availability, maintainability, and operational testing. Twenty years later they shrank the sensors down and got them to fit in the Fox recon vehicle.

          I did see Salt Lake City though, so there’s that.

        • rgr769 says:

          I attended the classified chemical weapons presentation for officers at Dugway back in the days when it accidentally poisoned about 5,000 sheep. One of my ROTC instructors married the post commander’s daughter back in 1968.

  5. A Proud Infidel®™️ says:

    What do the mad mullahs have, obsolete MiGs? F4 Phantoms, what we used to use as target drones? Oh wait, didn’t the Iranians tell the world that they had just made their very own Fighters from scratch? Yeah right…

    • rgr769 says:

      I heard they can’t fly most of their F-4s because they can’t get spare parts.

      • 26Limabeans says:

        Part of the so called quid pro quo during
        the Reagan years was them getting spares
        for their HAWK missle systems. We sent them
        spares alright but they were IHAWK spares
        (improved HAWK) and they won’t work in the
        original system.
        Never saw that in the news but it was well
        known inside baseball.

  6. ninja says:

    For once, I am speechless:

    “Michael Moore Apologizes To Iran On Behalf of the American People For Airstrike That Killed Soleimani”

    https://www.foxnews.com/entertainment/michael-moore-apologizes-iran-us-airstrike-qassem-soleimani-trump

  7. 11B-Mailclerk says:

    Looks like Iran decided on “stupid”.

    They just shot missiles into Iraq, apparently at our forces.

  8. jon spencer says:

    Gotta have elephants to have a elephant walk.
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wJ7niLYSVFo

    Boy, do I wish this was in 4K.

  9. Anonymous says:

    Iran? Like Rambo said:

  10. Slow Joe says:

    Fake news.

    The F-35 is a hoax. It cannot possibly fly. I was told that many, many, many times over the years. I lost count of how many articles were published saying the F-35 program needed to be canceled.

    I am pretty sure people here in TAH argued for its cancellation.

    Therefore, fake news.

    • 11B-Mailclerk says:

      I seem to recall the F-22 was supposedly a flop, as was:

      Bradley IFV
      Abrams MBT
      M-249 SAW
      Apache gunship
      C-17
      Humvee
      JSTARS (wow did -that- one turn out well)

      All of which seem to have worked out OK.

      I hope we see some utilization of the F-35 that justifies it. Note it was 1991 before the F-15 really had a chance to shine.

      The F-35 -procurement- was a Charlie Foxtrot. We -way- overspent. Almost any acquisition program is screwed up from the start.

      -that- needs fixed.

      • Mason says:

        You forgot the biggest alleged boondoggle of military acquisitions, the V-22 Osprey.

        • A Proud Infidel®™ says:

          The V-22 Osprey, sometimes a Helicopter, sometimes an Airplane and others a smoking scrambled mass of scrap metal that the US Military once called an Aircraft!

      • CCO says:

        The B-17 prototype crashed because a pilot didn’t unlock the trim tabs before flight. Supposedly that’s why there are check lists.

      • 26Limabeans says:

        The Patriot missle system. They said it
        couldn’t hit the Scuds. Of course
        the fuck not….it was proximity fuzed.
        Wasn’t designed to hit anything.

        Turned out to be a damn good replacement
        for HAWK as well as IHAWK. Israel turned
        the concept into the ARROW. The left really
        hates that system.

        It is the R&D of the hated military industrial
        complex that brings not only military marvels
        but civilian “toys” as well.

        Disclaimer: I receive a healthy pension check
        from one of the most hated companies on earth.

        • 11B-Mailclerk says:

          We deliberately de-tuned Patriot missiles and radar to stay away from ABM Treaty concerns.

        • FuzeVT says:

          “Disclaimer: I receive a healthy pension check from one of the most hated companies on earth.”

          Ha, ha! I’m working on that right now!

    • Veritas Omnia Vincit says:

      As I recall the conversation here Slow Joe it revolved around the use of the F-35 to replace the A-10…there was a legitimate concern that the lack of ammo and loiter time when compared to the A-10 could make the F-35 less desirable as a ground support aircraft…

      I don’t recall anyone calling for its cancellation, I believe the conversation was in support of maintaining the A-10 until such time as an actual one for one replacement were created.

  11. sj says:

    I was at Nellis once for one of their major “Red Flag” exercises. The morning “Push” had a zillion planes of every description from fighters to tankers going in every direction. It looked like ants on the runway. Exhaust smoke hung in the air. This went on for a long time. It was jaw dropping.

    • OWB says:

      Yep. Nothing quite like hearing/seeing multiple aircraft launch, especially when it means something. Heh heh.

      Oh, yeah. Seeing and hearing that triggered me bigly. Multiple runways, multiple types of aircraft, even multiple missions being launched. Contingency loads. Oh yeah. Good times.

      Maybe just this once I will elect to believe in coincidence. Yep. That’s what it was. Coincidence. Good planning. Just happened to work out this way. Sure thing.

      • sj says:

        Watched a zillion go from left to right and in the midst of that fighters took off, from right to left! Turns out they had live ordnance and can’t overfly Vegas. A push is an amazing thing.

        • OWB says:

          Yep. My grandest experience with that sort of thing was limited and rather short lived. And mostly C-130’s loaded with stuff going forward and coming back, sometimes. We had other aircraft in and around, coming though for this and that. Loading heavy was exciting for this REMF. And the scale of it all, “in the zone,” so to speak.

          But, yes the exercises at Nellis had some appeal as well. Had to fly into the midst of one or two of those as well bringing in parts for broke aircraft.

    • SFC D says:

      I was at a NASCAR race in Vegas, I think in 2000. B-52 on final at Nellis, just as the pack was rounding turn 2. Got an awesome photo.