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ADEX 2021: Persistent threat from North Korea drives RoKAF modernisation

A RoKAF F-15K Slam Eagle flies alongside a Peace Eye AEW&C platform. Both platforms have featured in the service's modernisation efforts over years, geared at addressing the persistent threat from North Korea. (Boeing)

Despite an increased emphasis on participating in multinational operations over recent years, the focus for the Republic of Korea Air Force (RoKAF) remains in countering the persistent threat from the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) to the north.

As noted by Janes World Air Force (JWAF), the RoKAF is a full-spectrum air arm, fielding the latest capabilities in the domains of air defence, strike, air mobility, and intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR).

The service currently fields about 800 aircraft, of which about 450 are frontline combat assets comprising 36 of a contracted 40 Lockheed Martin F-35A Lightning II Joint Strike Fighters (JSFs), 59 Boeing F-15K Slam Eagles, 188 Lockheed Martin KF-16C/D Fighting Falcons, 150 Northrop F-5E/F Tiger IIs, 20 McDonnell Douglas F-4E Phantom IIs, and 22 Korean Aerospace Industries (KAI) T/FA-50s (also known as TA-50), as well as numerous fixed- and rotary-winged air mobility, surveillance, and special mission platforms.

As it looks to continue to modernise its capabilities, the RoKAF has been implementing its five priority programmes. These comprise the procurement and development of the F-35A and KF-X fifth-generation fighters, ballistic missile defence (BMD) systems such as Patriot PAC‐3, airborne early warning and control (AEW&C) platforms, tanker aircraft, and a new integrated C4I system.

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