South Korea, US Hold First Combined F-35 Drills

South Korea, US Hold First Combined F-35 Drills

TEHRAN (Tasnim) – The South Korean and US air forces have conducted joint air drills featuring F-35A stealth fighters for the first time in an apparent show of force against North Korea.

According to the South Korean Air Force, Thursday, they staged four-day joint exercises from Monday with more than 30 fighter jets from the two sides in order to boost combined operational capability, while increasing interoperability of the F-35A ― a fifth generation aircraft that is in service in both countries, The Korea Times reported.

South Korea decided to purchase the 40 stealth fighter jets in 2013 under the F-X III program and completed their deployment in January.

Along with the respective F-35As, the F-15K, KF-16 and FA-50 from the South Korean Air Force and the F-16 from the US side participated in the drills. Six US F-35As arrived in South Korea last week to join the drills in the first public deployment of the US stealth warplanes there since late 2017.

The exercises involved various maneuvers, including strike package and defensive counter air operations as well as airborne alert interdiction (XINT), according to the South Korean Air Force.

"The training is an important exercise that symbolizes the strong South Korea-US alliance and combined defense posture," said Air Force Maj. Kwon Hae-bin from the 152nd fighter squadron of the 17th Fighter Wing.

"The pilots of the two countries were able to share the tactical and operational know-how of the fifth-generation fighters through the exercises," Kwon said.

Lt. Col. Ryan Worrell, a US F-35A pilot from Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska, also said, "Our primary objective with training is to safely execute tactics between us and ROKAF F-35s to show our ironclad alliance."

Defense Ministry deputy spokesperson Col. Moon Hong-sik said, "It is expected that cooperation will be made through various methods in order to enhance the capability to carry out joint operations between South Korea and the US and to strengthen these aspects of the combined defense posture."

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