SEOUL, May 6 (Yonhap) -- South Korea nicknamed its newly-introduced F-35A next-generation fighter jets "freedom knight," Air Force officials said Wednesday.
South Korea began bringing in the advanced stealth fighters in March last year to beef up reconnaissance capabilities under a plan to deploy 40 units through 2021, and deployed them in December. Last year, 13 F-35As arrived here.
"We held a contest among our service members and chose the name after holding a deliberation committee session in December," an Air Force official said.
The nickname reflects the military's hope for the advanced fighters to serve as a loyal knight that protects the freedom of South Korea's noble value of free democracy, he added.
It also carries the meaning of succeeding missions by the country's F-5 fighter jets which were codenamed "freedom fighter," according to the official.
The military's decision not to make public the nickname immediately is in line with its long-held stance of maintaining a low-key stance in handling the issue, which what critics have said comes as South Korea is overly mindful of North Korea. The communist country has lashed out at the South for introducing advanced weapons.
Last year, the Air Force held a ceremony to mark the deployment of the F-35As, but did not open it to the press.
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.
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