- Master Sgt. Jeremy Lock/USAF
- The US and South Korea are holding exercises on the Korean Peninsula involving a record 24 stealth jets practicing to take out North Korea’s offensive capabilities.
- North Korea has promised a “terrible retaliation” for the exercise, but there’s little it can do.
- Stealth jets like the F-22 and the F-35 provide the US with a possibly insurmountable technological advantage over North Korea in combat.
The US and South Korea militaries frequently train together, but this year’s version of an annual exercise, which began Monday and features participation of a record 24 stealth jets, is sure to give North Korean leader Kim Jong Un chills.
About 12,000 US Navy sailors, Marines, and South Korean troops will train with 230 aircraft from eight bases this week. The planes are set to conduct “surgical strikes” on about 700 targets that mimic North Korean military infrastructure, according to NK News.
The combined forces will focus on taking out North Korea’s artillery installations and blocking an invasion, while six F-22 Raptor fighter jets, six US Marine Corps F-35B jump jets, and 12 US Air Force F-35As patrol the skies with all-aspect stealth that Pyongyang would never see coming.
It marks a massive preparation for the all-out air and land war that would ensue if conflict broke out on the peninsula – and Pyongyang has taken notice.
North Korean media said the US was “staging an ultra-precision strike drill with high intensity just like in a real war focused on ‘removing’ the DPRK’s state leadership and core facilities by massively introducing the ultramodern stealth fighters,” according to The Wall Street Journal’s Jonathan Cheng.
While North Korean media frequently exaggerates in crafting a propaganda narrative, this time it’s pretty much correct.
The US has never before pulled in as many stealth jets for exercises on the Korean Peninsula, and never before have those jets trained so realistically to defeat North Korea.
How stealth fighters can change the game
Even before North Korea developed nuclear weapons, its massive artillery installations discouraged the US or South Korea from crossing the demilitarized zone separating the two Koreas.
Any solution to defeat North Korea’s military leadership without sustaining too much damage from artillery and missile attacks in a counterattack would surely involve F-22 and F-35 stealth jets.
Not only can the F-22s and F-35s fly over North Korea without being seen, but the F-35s have unparalleled sensors and situational awareness designed to spot artillery sites and direct airstrikes.
North Korea’s hidden artillery pieces have managed to deter outside invaders for decades, but with Kim scrambling to perfect his fleet of intercontinental ballistic missiles and top US officials viewing Pyongyang’s nuclear ambitions like a ticking time bomb, the use of the US’s most advanced aircraft in exercises signals the US is serious about the possibility of war.
On Sunday, North Korean media warned of a “terrible retaliation” to the exercise, but short of testing more missiles or nuclear devices, there’s little it can do to stop jets it can’t see from training on land it doesn’t control.