100 air assets each, including Republic of Korea Air Force F-15K and KF-16 fighter jets, and US Air Force F-16 aircraft were mobilized for the five-day exercise.
South Korea and US kicked off a combined annual air exercise on Nov. 1, 2021 in a low-key manner apparently to back ongoing diplomacy to resume dialogue with North Korea, a military source told to Yonhap News Agency.
The source said on the condition of anonymity, that 100 air assets each, including Republic of Korea Air Force (ROKAF) F-15K and KF-16 fighter jets, and US Air Force (USAF) F-16 aircraft were mobilized for the five-day exercise. No military assets were deployed from the US mainland this time.
Since the large-scale Vigilant Ace exercise to support peace efforts on the Korean Peninsula had been suspended, South Korea and US have regularly held the air exercise in a scaled-down, low-key manner.
The ROKAF declined in public to elaborate on the maneuvers, only saying that allied exercises are carried out in a “balanced manner” under the annual plan.
“We cannot comment on the exercise as it is one that is not disclosed to the media,” a service official told Yonhap News Agency.
South Korea and US military drills has long been denounced as a war rehearsal for an invasion by North Korea.
The reclusive regime also said that these exercises are used by the two allies as an excuse for provocations.
North Korea recently called on the South Korea and US to drop “double standards,” bashing Seoul and Washington for defining its missile activities as “provocations” while rationalizing their own as deterrence.
The first flight of KF-21 (former KF-X) will take place in 2022. A total of 8 prototypes (6 flying & 2 ground testing) will undergo rigorous testings until mass production begins in 2026, with a goal of 40 jets deployed by 2028 and 120 by 2032.
Once operational, the KF-21 will be armed with both air-to-air and air-to-surface missiles — and possibly even air-launched cruise missiles.
While South Korea’s Defense Acquisition Program Administration (DAPA) claims the KF-21 is a 4.5-generation fighter jet because it lacks, for instance, an internal weapons bay that increases stealthiness, analysts say it may be able to fly higher and faster than the newest US-made fifth-generation fighter, the F-35, and still carry a robust weapons load.
Photo credit: U.S. Air Force