F-35 stealth fighter jets from the United States and South Korea are teaming up for the first time in a 10-day exercise in order to send a message to North Korea.
Six US Air Force F-35As from Eielson Air Force Base in Alaska arrived in South Korea on Tuesday, July 5 and will fly with F-35s from South Korea in a series of exercises ending July 14, the two countries said.
“This deployment is aimed at enhancing the interoperability of (our air forces) while demonstrating the strong deterrence and joint defense posture of the alliance,” the South Korean Defense Ministry said.
This is the first time stealth fighters from the two allies have worked together.
Tensions with North Korea have been increasing in recent months as Pyongyang has been testing missiles capable of carrying nuclear warheads at a record pace, with at least 17 launches this year.
Experts say stealth fighters able to evade Pyongyang’s radars would be vital in any action against North Korea.
The deployment of the US fighters is part 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 evolving threat posed by (North Korea), both leaders agree to initiate discussions to expand the scope and scale of combined military exercises and training on and around the Korean Peninsula,” the White House said after the two presidents met.
“Both leaders also reaffirm the commitment of the US to deploy strategic US military assets in a timely and coordinated manner as necessary.”
The US military said the American F-35s would operate alongside other US aircraft during their deployment, without giving specifics.
The F-35 is one of the world’s most advanced fighter aircraft. The US operates hundreds of the jets, and the South Korean Air Force has about 50 of the F-35A, fifth-generation jets.