The skies above Southern California were treated to an amazing feat of air power last week when the US Marine Corps’ Marine Aircraft Group 16 executed a mass sortie. A total of 43 aircraft took to the air at once on June 6. Twenty-seven MV-22 Osprey and sixteen CH-53E Sea Stallion helicopters were present at the tarmac and took off simultaneously. This show of force is known as the elephant walk.
The elephant walk is intended to showcase the might of the US military and its ability to launching a large number of aircraft right away. The event took place at Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, the previous home of the US Navy’s TOP GUN program. MV-22 Osprey tiltrotor aircraft that was part of the elephant walk is assigned to the marine tiltrotor squadrons. They carry troops and light cargo to and from shore when amphibious operations are being conducted. The CH-53E Sea Stallion is used for carrying internal cargo loads or ‘slung’ loads that are balanced underneath the aircraft – this includes light vehicles.
Colonel Craig LeFlore, commander of the Marine Air Group, said, ‘MAG-16 is a force in readiness. This mass launch is not just for show. The majority of these aircraft will go out and conduct tactical training after their launch. Training that makes your Marines the readiest when our nation is least ready. I can’t think of a better way for the MAG to celebrate the 75th Anniversary of D-Day and the accomplishments of those who have gone before us.’
Marine aviation has been struggling with severe readiness problems up until now with merely 52% of the service’s MV-22 Ospreys ready for action. Back in 2018, Secretary of Defense James Mattis had ordered an 80% readiness rate for all of the Pentagon’s combat aircraft. The CH-53E fleet had a readiness rate of 23% during the mid-2010s. However, the number has improved quite a lot during recent months.
Keeping everything aside, the elephant walk sure looked amazing!