In World War II, it could take up to 30,000 bombing runs over a period of weeks to destroy a thousand ground targets. On Monday in North Carolina, the U.S. Air Force’s 4th Fighter Wing hit 1,000 targets in a single sweep, using just 70 or so Boeing F-15E Strike Eagles capable of dropping large numbers of small, smart munitions. Estimated time of destruction: a couple hours.
The F-15s’ mass takeoff, depicted above, was itself an impressive feat. The fighters packed the runway and tarmac at Seymour Johnson Air Force Base in eastern North Carolina. Wing commander Col. Patrick Doherty took off first, followed by the other aircrews at intervals of just a few seconds.
The mock bombing campaign, which apparently saw the Strike Eagles lob 25-pound practice bombs on weapons ranges across the southern state, was meant to commemorate the wing’s World War II combat record, which included an official tally of more than 1,000 enemy planes destroyed. But the so-called Turkey Shoot exercise also signaled the Air Force’s accelerating shift from the low-intensity wars of the past decade towards a future that could require massive aerial campaigns against an industrialized enemy.