The Chosun Ilbo says the U.S. intends to start rotating the F-16s in South Korea with F-35A stealth fighters starting from early next year.
The Republic of Korea Air Force (ROKAF) instead plans to deploy 40 F-35As by 2021. The fifth-generation fighters will replace the service existing F-16 fighter jets, of which some 60 are stationed at Osan Air Base in Pyeongtaek, Gyeonggi Province and the one in Gunsan, North Jeolla Province.
Although the U.S. Pacific Air Forces (PACAF) did not deny the reports, the air component command of the United States Indo-Pacific Command (USINDOPACOM) sidestepped the question by saying it is working to build strategic bases in the Indo-Pacific region, with the U.S. Air Force (USAF) deploying weapons in due course.
“The U.S. considers the deployment of F-35As from a strategic perspective in the Indo-Pacific region targeting not only North Korea but also China,” a South Korean military spokesman commented.
Some 220 F-35 fighters will be deployed for U.S. troops and allies in the region by 2025, Gen. Charles Brown, PACAF commander said last July
Of course, North Korea and China are unlikely to be pleased with the F-35 in their back yards. North Korea has responded extremely sensitively to the South Korean Air Force’s recent procurement of F-35As and launched missile provocations in a fit of protest. China is expected to protest too but the country fields its own stealth fighters.
Pacific Air Forces, headquartered at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii, is one of nine USAF major commands and the air component of U.S. Pacific Command. PACAF’s primary mission is to provide ready air and space power to promote U.S. interests in the Indo-Asia-Pacific region. PACAF consists of 46,000 members, including active duty, Air National Guard, Reserve and civilians. PACAF’s area of responsibility is home to 60 percent of the world’s population in 36 nations spread across 53 percent of the Earth’s surface and 16 time zones, with more than 1,000 languages spoken.
Photo credit: Cynthia Griggs / U.S. Air Force
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