US and South Korean F-35 fighter jets unite amid tensions with North Korea

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US and South Korean F-35 stealth fighter jets are teaming up for the first time in a 10-day exercise aimed at sending a message to North Korea.

Six U.S. Air Force F-35As from Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska, arrived in South Korea on Tuesday and will fly F-35s from the host country in a series of exercises ending July 14. , said two soldiers.

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“This deployment aims to improve the interoperability of (our air forces) while demonstrating the strong deterrence and joint defense posture of the alliance,” the South Korean Defense Ministry said.

A South Korean spokesman said this is the first time that the two allies’ stealth fighter jets have worked together.

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Experts say planes capable of evading Pyongyang’s radar are vital in any action against North Korea.

The deployment of US fighter jets is a visible sign of the commitment US President Joe Biden made to his South Korean counterpart Yoon Suk Yeol when the two met in Seoul in May.

“Considering the growing threat posed by (North Korea), both leaders agree to initiate discussions to expand the scope and scale of joint military exercises and training in and around the Korean Peninsula,” the White House said after the two presidents met. “Both leaders also reaffirm the US commitment to deploying strategic US military assets in a timely and coordinated manner, as needed.”

Tensions with North Korea have increased in recent months. Pyongyang has been testing missiles capable of delivering nuclear warheads at a record pace, with at least 17 launches this year.

The US military said the US F-35s would operate alongside other US aircraft during their deployment, without giving details.

But working with the South Korean F-35s is the main event.

The F-35 is one of the most advanced fighters in the world. The US operates hundreds of the jets, which come in three configurations, the conventional take-off and landing F-35As, flown by the Air Force; the Marine Corps F-35Bs, which can land vertically; and the F-35C, configured for aircraft carrier operations.

Like the US Air Force, the South Korean Air Force flies the F-35A, with its first jet delivered by manufacturer Lockheed Martin in 2018. Its fleet of 40 fifth-generation jets became fully operational this spring.

On March 25, the day after one of Pyongyang’s missile tests, Seoul staged an “elephant walk” of its F-35 fleet, lining up the jets at once on a runway in a show of power.

“Using the F-35A stealth fighter jets, the stealth power capable of stealthy infiltration and precise strikes, we will achieve a landslide strategic victory and maintain a complete military posture that will prevent further actions by North Korea,” said then Defense Minister Suh Wook. . during the elephant walk.

The last reported deployment of US F-35s to South Korea took place in 2017, when they joined F-22 stealth fighter jets in what at the time was described as the largest concentration of fifth-generation fighter jets ever in South Korea.

These warplanes were part of a massive annual US-South Korea exercise called Vigilant Ace, which was canceled under Donald Trump when the then US president tried to convince North Korean Kim Jong Un to give up his programs. of nuclear missiles.

After three meetings between Trump and Kim failed to reach an agreement, North Korea ramped up its missile program. The US and South Korea fear Pyongyang will try to test a nuclear weapon soon, something it hasn’t done since 2017.

Source: CNN Brasil

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