South Korea, US to conduct joint large-scale aerial exercise next week

South Korea, US to conduct joint large-scale aerial exercise next week

Seoul, The Gulf Observer: South Korea and the United States will conduct a joint large-scale aerial exercise, involving stealth fighter jets, next week to enhance combined operational capabilities, Seoul’s Air Force said.

The five-day Vigilant Defense 24 will kick off Monday, involving some 130 South Korean and U.S. aircraft, amid joint efforts to bolster defense capabilities against North Korean military threats, Yonhap reported.

The exercise will mobilize South Korean F-35A fighters, E-737 airborne early warning and control aircraft, KC-330 tanker transport aircraft, as well as U.S. F-35A and F-35B fighters and other warplanes, according to the South’s military branch.

It said the U.S. has deployed F-35A fighters from the mainland and FA-18, F-35B and other aircraft based in Japan for the training event.

During the exercise period, the allies will stage round-the-clock aerial drills, including those on airborne alert interdiction and close air support operations, to enhance the interoperability of the allies’ advanced fighter jets.

An Australian KC-30A multi-role tanker transport aircraft will also join the exercise for air-to-air refueling training with South Korean and U.S. warplanes, it said.

The U.S. 7th Air Force, under the U.S. Forces Korea, emphasized the “defensive” nature of the exercise, noting that it is not meant to be “provocative” to any particular country.

“Combined flying training events like Vigilant Defense 24 are entirely defensive in nature, are not related to any current real-world threats or situations and are not intended to be threatening or provocative toward any other country,” it said.

North Korea has long accused the allies’ joint military drills of being rehearsals for an invasion.

Last year, the North staged a spate of missile launches during Vigilant Storm 23, the precursor of this year’s latest air exercise.