South Korean Air Forces F-15K Slam Eagle

The US and South Korean Air Forces have started a biennial joint air exercise, called Max Thunder, at Kwangju Air Base in South Korea, amidst speculations of a potential nuclear test by the North Korea.

A South Korean Air Force spokesman was quoted by The Korea Herald as saying that the drill will continue until 18 May 2012 and involve about 60 aircraft, including fighter jets, refuelling aircraft and airborne warning and control system (AWACS) surveillance planes.

"The drill will display our readiness and joint air firepower with the US that can immediately retaliate in case of an emergency on the Korean Peninsula," the spokesman added.

South Korea is deploying 38 aircraft including the F-15K, KF-16 fighter jets, while the US forces include F-16 and A-10 attack aircraft and the KC-135 Stratotanker aerial refuelling aircraft.

During the 12 day exercise, the units from the South Korean Air Force and the US 7th Air Force will hold exercises that are designed to improve their ability to attack enemy forces and protect friendly air spaces.

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The exercises will feature aerial refuelling drills for the first time, and will also involve participation from the special forces operatives and a Navy destroyer in a bid to improve the interoperability between different branches of the armed forces.

The special forces personnel will participate in air strike targeting drills, while the destroyer will simulate ship-to-air threats, according to the air force.

Exercise Max Thunder is designed to sharpen the forces’ responsive skills and their ability to work together in simulated, realistic combat situations.

North Korea has repeatedly threatened retaliation against such exercises, which the US said are defensive in nature.

Image: A South Korean Air Forces F-15K Slam Eagle lands at Nellis Air Force Base in US. Photo: courtesy of U.S. Air Force, photo by Chief Master Sgt. Gary Emery.