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S. Korea, U.S. stage 1st combined drills involving F-35As amid N.K. threats

Defense 09:27 July 14, 2022

By Kang Yoon-seung and Song Sang-ho

SEOUL, July 14 (Yonhap) -- South Korea and the United States have been conducting their first combined air drills here involving their respective F-35A stealth fighters, Seoul officials said Thursday, in an apparent show of force against North Korea's evolving military threats.

The four-day drills kicked off Monday amid lingering concerns that Pyongyang could ratchet up tensions by conducting what would be its seventh nuclear test or other provocative acts.

The allies have mobilized some 30 aircraft, including South Korea's F-35A, F-15K, KF-16 and FA-50 jets, and U.S. assets, like F-16 jets. Six U.S. F-35As arrived here last week to join the drills in the first public deployment of America's stealth warplanes here since late 2017.

"The drills have been arranged to improve combined operational capabilities of the two countries through real-life training and strengthen the interoperability of the fifth-generation F-35As run by the countries," the Air Force said in a press release.

An F-35A fighter of the South Korean Air Force takes off from an Air Force base in Chungju, 147 kilometers south of Seoul, in this photo released by the Air Force on July 14, 2022. (PHOTO NOT FOR SALE) (Yonhap)

The drills marked the first combined training involving the allies' respective F-35As since South Korea completed the deployment of 40 F-35As in January.

The training entailed various maneuvers, including defensive counter-air operations and emergency air interdiction.

Lt. Col. Ryan Worrell, a U.S. F-35A pilot, said the primary objective with this week's training is to safely execute tactics between U.S. and South Korean F-35As to show "our ironclad alliance."

The last public deployment of the U.S.' fifth-generation fighters to Korea came in December 2017, when the allies staged their then regular Vigilant Ace training.

The latest F-35 dispatch followed an agreement from the May summit between President Yoon Suk-yeol and his U.S. counterpart, Joe Biden, on deploying America's strategic military assets "in a timely and coordinated manner as necessary."

The F35-A radar-evading fighters of the South Korean and U.S. air forces make a joint sortie during an allied air drill that ran from July 11 to July 14, in this undated photo released by the South Korean Air Force. (PHOTO NOT FOR SALE) (Yonhap)

colin@yna.co.kr
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