Joint drill begins a day before new president's term
South Korea and the U.S. began a two-week joint air maneuver drill Monday, one day ahead of incoming President Yoon Suk-yeol's inauguration.
According to multiple sources within the military, F-35A fighter jets, known to be particularly feared by North Korea, participated in the drills.
According to sources within the South Korean military, this is a “message of warning that North Korea’s provocations can be punished at any time” with the launch of the Yoon government.
The joint drill is an exercise held annually around this time of the year.
The ROK and U.S. Air Forces named the drill “Korea Flying Training” (KFT). It replaces the “Max Thunder” joint drills held in the first half of the year from 2009 to 2018. Since 2019, the spring drills were reduced in size and nameless. A military official, who requested anonymity, said, “There was no name until last year, but a new name was given this year.”
The Air Forces used F-35A and F-15K fighter jets as well as the E-737 “Peace Eye” airborne early warning and control system for the drill. In the case of the U.S., only assets in Korea took part in the drill.
The F-35A is a key stealth attack asset for the Air Force that can penetrate North Korea’s air defense system and strike not only military and nuclear facilities but also Pyongyang’s leadership.
In fact, North Korea has reacted very sensitively to the introduction of the F-35A in South Korea, as revealed in the investigation results of last year’s Cheongju spying incident, in which four South Koreans, who were North Korea sympathizers, tried organizing protests against the introduction of the F-35A fighter jet in South Korea.
When the South Korean Air Force acquired the final four of 40 F-35As in January, North Korea called it “another dangerous military maneuver that is targeting our republic and thoroughly threatening the peace and security of the Korean Peninsula.”
“This is the first time that the F-35A squadron has participated in a combined drill with a full 40-jet system,” a military source said. “Through this drill, we will check whether the deterrent against North Korea is functioning normally and also strengthen our capabilities.”
“As the F-35A deployment is happening at a politically sensitive time, it appears to be a warning to prevent North Korean provocations,” said Yang Wook, an associate research fellow at the Asan Institute for Policy Studies. “Showing the ability to punish with the deployment of stealth power itself is a deterrent.”
BY KIM SANG-JIN [firstname.lastname@example.org]