Korea-US air drill will involve 240 planes

F-35A stealth fighters from the South Korean and U.S. armies fly in formation during the first joint Allied exercise involving the fighter on October 11. [NEWS1]

South Korea and the United States will conduct a large-scale combined aerial exercise involving 240 aircraft, including their F-35A and F-35B stealth jets.

According to the Seoul Defense Ministry on Tuesday, the joint exercise will take place in South Korean airspace from Oct. 31 to Nov. 4.

About 100 US aircraft, which will include F-35B stealth fighters and F-16 fighters, are expected to join 140 South Korean air force jets, including F-35A, F-15K fighters and KF-16.

The exercise will be joined for the first time by Australia, which will send a refueling tanker, which the Ministry of Defense says is a sign of the three countries’ shared values ​​and cooperation in regional defence.

“This exercise aims to enhance interoperability between the air forces of South Korea and the United States and increase the combat effectiveness of our two countries,” said Air Force Colonel Choi. Youn-seok during a press briefing at the Ministry of Defense in Yongsan. District, central Seoul.

The annual exercise – formerly known as Vigilant Ace – was canceled in 2018 and 2019, then relaunched in a significantly scaled-back version under President Moon Jae-in, who sought detente with North Korea.

The 2020 and 2021 exercises featured 150 and 200 aircraft respectively, although the South Korean military did not disclose the number of aircraft participating in those years.

This year’s exercise marks the first time in five years that US F-35B stealth fighters, usually stationed at Marine Corps Air Station in Iwakuni, Japan, will be deployed to South Korea.

The F-35B is a short takeoff, vertical landing variant of the F-35A stealth fighter.

The joint aerial exercise comes at a time of heightened tensions on the Korean peninsula, with the Seoul spy agency reporting that Pyongyang is likely to carry out its seventh nuclear test between the end of the Chinese Communist Party’s annual congress on October 22 and the elections. midterm Americans. November 8.

North Korea carried out nine missile launches between September 25 and October 14, with Friday’s exercise involving the launch of a short-range ballistic missile (SRBM) into the East Sea and around 170 rounds. artillery in maritime buffer zones after more than 10 North Korean warplanes took part in a flight near the inter-Korean border.

The South Korean Air Force has deployed its F-35 stealth fighters and other military equipment to the scene, the Joint Chiefs of Staff said.

Such displays of air power by the North Korean military are normally rare but have occurred more often recently.

South Korean military officials belatedly revealed on October 10 that the North Korean military had flown 150 fighter jets near the inter-Korean border two days earlier, leading the South to send F-35A stealth fighters to answer.

The North Korean air force drill was confirmed by Pyongyang’s state-controlled Korea Central News Agency, which said the regime had carried out missile launches and a drill “unprecedented” response by the Air Force to the presence of the aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan in the East Sea for joint naval exercises with South Korea late last month.

BY MICHAEL LEE [[email protected]]

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