Osan and Kunsan air bases joined forces for the display of airpower, lining up on the runway F-16s, A-10s, U-2s and C-12s belonging to the units permanently forward-deployed in South Korea.
The Pacific Air Forces’ 7th Air Force staged a large aircraft generation training event at Osan Air Base with the participation of all the subordinate units from Osan and Kunsan air bases, where the 51st and 8th Air Wings are based. The “Mammoth Walk”, as the photos’ captions called it, happened on May 5, 2023, but it was only disclosed few days ago.
The photos of the event on the runway show 53 aircraft, which include two U-2 Dragon Ladys of the 5th Reconnaissance Squadron, three C-12 Hurons of the 2nd Combat Aviation Brigade, 12 A-10 Thunderbolt IIs of the 25th Fighter Squadron and 36 F-16 Fighting Falcons of the 35th, 36th, and 80th Fighter Squadrons. While the 5th RS (part of the 9th Reconnaissance Wing) and the U.S. Army’s 2nd CAB are not subordinate unit of the 7th AF, they are stationed at Osan AB and joined the event as they are integral part of the aviation activities in Korea.
All the aircraft shown in the photos are armed with live weapons, showing different configuration of loadouts with AIM-9 and AIM-120 air-to-air missiles, AGM-65 air-to-ground missiles and AGM-88 HARM anti-radiation missiles, and GBU-38, GBU-54, GBU-31(V)1 (standard Mk-84 body) and GBU-31(V)3 (BLU-109 penetrator body) JDAM bombs. Some F-16s were also seen equipped with the HARM Targeting System pod, a rare occurrence for Block 40 Vipers, but it allows them to perform SEAD missions just like the Block 50 aircraft that are usually assigned this mission set.
The brief press statement released by the 7th AF says the large aircraft generation training event demonstrated the wings’ rapid generation capabilities and response readiness. “The combined ability of 7th Air Force and our partner units at Osan Air Base to generate combat airpower at a moment’s notice affirm that our commitment to the Republic of Korea remains ironclad and ensure regional stability throughout the Indo-Pacific,” continued the captions.
While not specified, it is possible the “Mammoth Walk” (which was usually called an Elephant Walk in other occasions) was one of the events of Exercise Beverly Midnight 23-1, which was hosted by Osan AB from May 4 to 12, 2023. The exercise is one of the yearly training events of the 8th FW, which allows the unit to “maintain the level of readiness required to accomplish the ‘Fight Tonight’ mission and are an opportunity to practice contingency response, evaluate performance and sharpen critical skills.”
Since April 1, 2023, the 8th FW is deployed to Osan AB, as Kunsan’s runway is closed for repairs until August. The move enabled many side-by-side training opportunities between the 51st and 8th FWs, including Beverly Midnight 23-1, allowing F-16s from Kunsan’s 35th and 80th Fighter Squadrons to conduct sorties alongside F-16s and A-10s from the Osan’s 25th and 36th Fighter Squadrons.