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US, South Korean F-35s conduct first combined training

US Air Force F-35A Lightning II fighter aircraft of the 356th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron participated in the first combined flight training with South Korean F-35A fighters. (US Air Force/Staff Sgt Zade Vadnais)

Lockheed Martin F-35A Lightning II stealth fighters from the Republic of Korea Air Force (RoKAF) and the United States Air Force (USAF) have completed their first combined flight training exercise.

The drills were held from 11 to 14 July. The exercise was because of agreements reached at the Korea-US summit in May.

Speaking at a press briefing on 14 July, the South Korean Ministry of National Defense's (MND's) deputy spokesperson Colonel Moon Hong-sik said it had been decided at the summit to “deploy strategic assets of the US military in a timely and co-ordinated manner”.

According to a statement by the White House on the summit, the agreement to expand the scope and scale of combined military exercises and training on and around the Korean Peninsula was prompted by the “evolving” threat posed by North Korea. South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol and US President Joseph Biden also affirmed their pledge to provide extended deterrence, such as nuclear, conventional, and missile defence capabilities.

The MND said in a statement on 15 July that the joint training was intended to improve the “performance of combined operations through practical training and to increase the interoperability of the F-35A”.

A total of 30 aircraft participated in the exercise, according to the MND. The RoKAF committed several F-35As, plus Boeing (McDonnell Douglas) F-15Ks and KAI KF-16s and FA-50s. Six USAF F-35As and several Lockheed Martin F-16s participated.

During the training period, aircraft were divided into opposing forces. The units conducted scenarios such as attack, defence, and emergency air interception, the MND said.

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