Aircraft Fill the South Korean Sky in Joint U.S.-South Korean Airforce Drill

By Matthew Little

U.S. and South Korean forces are carrying out a massive air power exercise this week involving some 230 aircraft.

The exercise runs from Dec. 4-8 and includes 12,000 U.S. personnel.

The annual exercise brings in planes from across South Korea. Last year’s drill included aircraft from U.S. bases in Japan.

This year it will include the highest number of F-22 and F-35 stealth jets ever in South Korea. The fighter and strike fighter aircraft would be crucial to any pre-emptive strike against North Korea as they could be used to elude North Korean radar and hit artillery positions to limit the damage inflicted on South Korea and Seoul, which is close to the border.

Col. William D. Betts, commander of the 51st fighter wing, said in a statement that the exercise helps the airforce get smarter, faster, and more capable.

He also said the exercise comes at a dangerous time on the Korean Peninsula, “The threat here on the peninsula is very real, and countering that threat needs to be in the forefront of our minds.”

The exercise will include U.S. F-22 Raptors, F-35 Lightning IIs, F-16 Fighting Falcons, F-15 Eagles, F-18 Hornets, and EA-18G Growlers. They will be flying alongside Republic of Korea F-15K Slam Eagles and F-4 Phantom IIs.

Below are photos of some of the aircraft involved.

U.S. Air Force F-16 Fighting Falcon fighter aircraft, assigned to the 36th Fighter Squadron, participate in an elephant walk during Exercise VIGILANT ACE 18 at Osan Air Base, Republic of Korea, Dec. 3, 2017. The F-16 is a single-engine air superiority fighter meant to go head-to-head with other fighter jets . (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Franklin R. Ramos/Released)

A U.S. Air Force A-10 Thunderbolt II fighter aircraft, assigned to the 25th Fighter Squadron, flies over Osan Air Base during Exercise VIGILANT ACE 18 on Dec. 3. The twin turbofan plane is heavily armored and nicknamed the “Warthog.” (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Franklin R. Ramos)
Maintainers from the 25th Fighter Squadron prepare an A-10 Thunderbolt II aircraft for live weapons loading during exercise Vigilant Ace 18 at Osan Air Base, Republic of Korea, Dec. 2, 2017.  The A-10 is used for close air support, attacking enemy forces in close proximity to friendly ground forces. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Franklin R. Ramos/Released)
U.S. Air Force Senior Airmen with the 25th Fighter Squadron weapons load crew remove a weapon system from an A-10 Thunderbolt II aircraft during exercise Vigilant Ace 18 at Osan Air Base.  (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Franklin R. Ramos)
A U.S. Air Force C-17 Globemaster III cargo aircraft, assigned to Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, N.J., begins take-off during Exercise VIGILANT ACE 18 at Osan Air Base, Republic of Korea, Dec. 3, 2017. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Franklin R. Ramos/Released)
U.S. Air Force F-16 Fighting Falcon fighter aircraft, assigned to the 36th Fighter Squadron, conduct an elephant walk on a taxiway during Exercise VIGILANT ACE 18 at Osan Air Base, Republic of Korea, Dec. 3, 2017. The exercise provides U.S. and RoK forces training to employ Airpower to deter aggression and preserve the armistice, defend the RoK and defeat any attack against the alliance. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Franklin R. Ramos/Released)
An F-16C from the 36th Fighter Squadron based out of Osan in Korea, takes off on July 12th, 2011. The 36th is one of many squadrons taking part in Vigilant Ace. [Photo by CPL David Gibbs]
F-15 Eagle jet fighters, like that seen here, are also among the aircraft participating in Vigilant Ace. Like the F-16, it is also an air superiority fighter jet meant to take out enemy aircraft and achieve air dominance. (Benjamin Chasteen/The Epoch Times)
A U.S. Navy EA-18G Growler seen after conducting in-air refueling May 3, 2017, over the Western Pacific Ocean. The jet is an electronic warfare aircraft used to jam enemy radar and otherwise degrade or deceive enemy efforts to sense U.S. aircraft. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman John Linzmeier)

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