MCGUIRE AIR FORCE BASE, N.J. -- The 305th Air Mobility Wing completed its first ‘Elephant Walk’ in nearly five years, launching all 12 KC-10 Extenders on the ramp, one right after the other, in a 30-minute time period here, Dec. 20.
The ‘Elephant Walk’ is a display of air power showcasing the 305th AMW’s contributions to the Air Mobility Commands.
Air refuelers are the lifeline of global reach, increasing range, payload and flexibility. Air Force tankers can also refuel Navy, Marine and NATO aircraft and have an inherent cargo-carrying capability.
“With our high operations tempo and the recent events in Libya, we have been stretched thin, leaving little time to train,” said Lt. Col. Jimmy Shaw, 305th Operations Group deputy commander.”Fortunately the Air Mobility Command is rotating through the tanker units providing us a couple of weeks to focus our efforts on training, maintenance and family.”
An ‘Elephant Walk’ is a fundamental training element when preparing for global strike missions.
“Being able to support a Global Strike Mission is one of our core competencies,” said Col. John Roscoe, 305th OG commander. “It is vital we are able to perform this mission so we can support Global Strike Missions and ultimately the war on terrorism.”
Global Strike Missions consist of large formations of aircraft flying long distances to reach strategic targets. Tankers, such as the KC-10, launch in large groups to provide an aerial “gas station” for formations. The flying fuel tanks will create a layered affect flying at different altitudes to allow maximum off loading at minimum risk.
“Practicing complex missions such as large-formation refueling makes us just that much better and more capable in situations where we may be called upon,” said Shaw. “The short break from our high operations tempo made today a perfect opportunity to train for such missions.”
The ‘Elephant Walk’ required 160 airmen from the 305th operations and maintenance groups to work a total of three shifts to complete the mission. One crew prepared all the aircraft the night before, while another crew did all the necessary inspections and last-minute duties. The final crew completed all the recovery and post-mission tasks once the aircraft returned to base.
Reserve airmen from the 514th Air Mobility Wing also participated, flying four of the 12 Extenders and providing aircraft maintenance support. The Total Force effort to execute the 'Elephant Walk' was indicative of the daily integration that has become routine practice between the 514th AMW and 305th AMW.
“My role was to make sure the maintainers had the tools to get the aircraft ready and the mission done,” said Chief Master Sgt. Samuel D’urso, 305th OG superintendent. “This is my first ‘Elephant Walk’ training mission here, but I’ve done several in the past.”
The 305th AMW leadership shuffled manpower and shifted schedules to increase manning by 50 percent during the training mission. The overall planning and execution of the mission took close to a week.
The mission commander Lt. Col. Erik Simonsen, 32nd Air Refueling Squadron commander said, “The mission was a huge success and we achieved all the objectives we set out. We didn’t do everything perfectly, but really for the first time doing such a large exercise in such a long time I think we achieved a lot. Overall, I think we did really well, everybody pulled together and it was a fantastic exercise of 12 aircraft doing AMCs’ global mission of global reach and global power.”
'Elephant Walk' is a unique Air Force term introduced during World War II, eventually becoming a part of the Air Force's institutional language. The Army Air Corps' large fleet of bombers would regularly conduct attacks by sorties comprising more than 1,000 aircraft. Observers commented that the nose-to-tail, single-file taxi movements of the heavily-laden bombers paralleled the nose-to-tail trail of lumbering elephants on their way to the next watering hole. The term stuck – and was even used to define maximum aircraft surge operations in Air Force regulations.
KC-10 Extender Facts
The KC-10 Extender is an Air Mobility Command advanced tanker and cargo aircraft designed to provide increased global mobility for U.S. armed forces. Although the KC-l0's primary mission is aerial refueling, it can combine the tasks of a tanker and cargo aircraft by refueling fighters and simultaneously carry the fighter support personnel and equipment on overseas deployments. The KC-10 is also capable of transporting litter and ambulatory patients using patient support pallets during aeromedical evacuations.
The KC-10 can transport up to 75 people and nearly 170,000 pounds (76,560 kilograms) of cargo a distance of about 4,400 miles (7,040 kilometers) unrefueled.
In addition to the three main DC-10 wing fuel tanks, the KC-10 has three large fuel tanks under the cargo floor, one under the forward lower cargo compartment, one in the center wing area and one under the rear compartment. Combined, the capacity of the six tanks carry more than 356,000 pounds (160,200 kilograms) of fuel - almost twice as much as the KC-135 Stratotanker.