South Korea Christens the F-35A “Freedom Knight”

South Korea scrambles 80 fighter jets, including F-35A Lightning II stealth aircraft, after detecting 180 North Korean warplanes near border, military says

By Dario Leone
Nov 4 2022
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ROKAF scrambled 80 aircraft, including an unspecified number F-35A Lightning II stealth fighters.

South Korea’s military said Republic of Korea Air Force (ROKAF) scrambled fighter jets after detecting a large number of North Korean military aircraft north of the two countries’ border over four hours on Nov. 4, 2022.

As reported by CNN, in a statement, the South Korean military said it spotted about 180 North Korean military aircraft between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. local time, a day after Pyongyang is believed to have conducted the failed test of an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM).

The North Korean aircraft flew north of the so-called tactical action line, north of the Military Demarcation Line between the two Koreas, South Korea’s military said in a statement. According to Reuters, the virtual line is used as a basis for South Korean air defence operations, a South Korean official said.

ROKAF scrambled 80 aircraft, including an unspecified number F-35A Lightning II stealth fighters, in response.

Tensions in the Korean Peninsula began rising on Oct. 31, when the “Vigilant Storm” joint exercise began between US, South Korea and allies. After Friday incident the aircraft participating in Vigilant Storm exercise continued the drills, the military said.

However, the ROKAF warplanes participating in the ongoing joint maneuvers had also “maintained a readiness posture,” the South Korean military said.

According to the article U.S. Air Force and ROK Air Force Conduct Large-Scale Joint Air Training Event Vigilant Storm by Lt. Col. Kelley Jeter, 7th Air Force Public Affairs, Vigilant Storm was previously called the Combined Flying Training Event, or CFTE in recent years, and is an annual event that takes several months of planning and preparation with units throughout the Korean peninsula and beyond. This year’s event strengths the operational and tactical capabilities of combined air operations and enhance our strong combined defense posture.

Approximately 240 aircraft and thousands of service members from the ROK Air Force, US Air Force, US Marine Corps, US Navy, and US Army participate in this training. Aircraft fly from several ROKAF bases, as well as Osan and Kunsan Air Bases, and Camp Humphreys. The Royal Australian Air Force’s 33 Squadron deployed a KC-30A air refueler to the Republic of Korea, to train with ROKAF and US Air Force aircraft during the event.

F-35A print
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ROK and US Air Forces work together with the joint services to perform major air missions such as close air support, defensive counter air, and emergency air operations 24 hours a day during the training period. Support forces on the ground also train their base defense procedures and survivability in case of attack.

Through this training event, ROK and US Air Forces improve interoperability between the 5th generation and 4th generation jets. Both ROKAF and USAF will fly 4th-generation jets, and will train with ROKAF F-35A’s and the USMC’s F-35B’s, giving Airmen and Marines the cross-service, combined experience that is crucial to combat readiness.

After Thursday’s suspected ICBM test, the US and South Korea announced they’d extend the exercise for an extra day until Nov. 5. A North Korean official denounced the move as a “very dangerous and false choice,” according to state media.

US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin accused North Korea of “irresponsible and reckless activities,” after meeting with his South Korean counterpart at the Pentagon.

“We’ve said before these kinds of activities are destabilizing to the region potentially. So we call on them to cease that type of activity and to begin to engage in serious dialogue,” Austin said.

A United Nations Security Council meeting is expected to take place on Nov. 4 to discuss Pyongyang’s recent missile launches.

In an interview on CNN on Nov. 2, US Ambassador to the UN Linda Thomas-Greenfield condemned North Korea’s actions, saying Pyongyang had broken multiple Security Council resolutions.

Thomas-Greenfield said the UN would be “putting pressure” on China and Russia to improve and enhance such sanctions.

Photo credit: Lockheed Martin

Lockheed F-35 Lightning II model
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Dario Leone

Dario Leone

Dario Leone is an aviation, defense and military writer. He is the Founder and Editor of “The Aviation Geek Club” one of the world’s most read military aviation blogs. His writing has appeared in The National Interest and other news media. He has reported from Europe and flown Super Puma and Cougar helicopters with the Swiss Air Force.
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