A dozen U.S. F-22 and F-35 stealth fighter jets have arrived in South Korea for joint exercises, the South Korean defense ministry revealed Sunday.
The five-day Vigilant Ace drill will begin Monday, and 230 U.S. and South Korean military aircraft will demonstrate the strength of allied air power in the face of threats from North Korea. The upcoming exercise is a regular biannual training event, however, it is unusual for advanced stealth aircraft such as the F-22 and F-35 to participate, according to Yonhap News Agency.
Several F-35Bs from Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni in Japan will also take part in the drill, joining EA-18G Growler electronic warfare aircraft and numerous F-15C and F-16 fighter jets. The U.S. aircraft will fly alongside South Korean F-15K, KF-16, and F-5 fighters, as well as other aviation assets.
U.S. and South Korean aviation units will conducted simulated precision airstrikes on North Korean nuclear and missile targets, including the transporter erector launchers that move the rogue regime’s missiles around the country.
North Korea has increased the threat to its neighbors and the U.S. this year through the development of new, more deadly ballistic missiles, including two intercontinental ballistic missiles, both of which can theoretically range the continental U.S.
North Korea tested successfully Tuesday the Hwasong-15, the successor to the Hwasong-14 ICBM tested twice successfully in July. While the North will need to carry out further testing before deployment, the test this week demonstrated a theoretical capability to strike anywhere in the continental U.S. (RELATED: Pentagon: North Korea Appears To Have Fired Off Its Third ICBM)
The Hwasong-15 may have a range greater than 8,000 miles, experts estimate. (RELATED: Report: North Korean ICBM May Be Able To Strike Anywhere In The US)
In addition to developing a new ICBM, North Korea claims it carried the weapon on an 18-wheeled, indigenously produced launch vehicle, suggesting that the rogue regime has overcome a key development obstacle and is becoming less reliant on imports. (RELATED: New Homemade Launch Vehicles: North Korea Claims Big Breakthrough After ICBM Test)
For the upcoming joint military exercises, the U.S will also reportedly dispatch an unspecified number of B-1B bombers, that the U.S. often sends ripping across the peninsula to send a warning to the Kim regime. The supersonic aircraft, while no longer nuclear capable, carries the largest conventional payload of guided and unguided munitions of any Air Force bomber.
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