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S. Korea to officially deploy F-35A stealth fighters next month

Defense 09:10 November 08, 2019

SEOUL, Nov. 8 (Yonhap) -- South Korea plans to hold a ceremony next month to mark the operational deployment of F-35A stealth fighters, officials said Friday.

South Korea has so far brought in 10 F-35As, beginning with two in late March, under a plan to deploy a total of 40 fifth-generation jets through 2021.

"On Monday, two F-35As arrived here in the latest batch, and three more are to arrive here by the end of this year," a government source said, adding that the military "is considering holding its fielding ceremony around next month."

Noting that holding such a ceremony means that the aircraft is capable of carrying out operations at least in a limited extent, the Air Force said it is now planning details for the event set to be held "within this year."

Last month, the Air Force showcased the next-generation fighters to the public for the first time during the Armed Forces Day event.

The military has handled the issues in a low-key manner, sparking speculation that the government is concerned about objections from North Korea. The communist country has lashed out at South Korea for the introduction of such advanced weapons.

As a centerpiece of the country's strategic targeting scheme against potential enemy forces, the warplane is expected to boost operational capabilities and strengthen the readiness posture against threats from all directions, according to the Air Force.

The fighters can fly at a top speed of Mach 1.8 and carry top-of-the-line weapons systems, such as joint direct attack munitions.

Seen in this photo captured from U.S. Ambassador Harry Harris's Twitter post uploaded Nov. 4, 2019, is an F-35A fighter jet that arrived in South Korea. (PHOTO NOT FOR SALE) (Yonhap)

graceoh@yna.co.kr
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