Military personnel from the US and Republic of Korea (ROK) Air Forces are conducting a large-scale, regular aerial exercise near the border with North Korea.
The bi-annual exercise is code-named Max Thunder. It will be conducted in South Korean airspace through 24 April with an aim to boost combined defence capabilities of the two air forces.
In a statement seen by the Yonhap News Agency, the South Korea Air Force headquarters said the exercise will ‘involve around 100 aircraft and 1,400 service personnel from the allies to display and hone our best combined air defence capabilities.’
South Korea is expected to deploy 50 aircraft, including the F-15K and KF-16 jets as well as the FA-50 light attack aircraft, while the US Air Force (USAF) is participating with its F-16, F-15, FA-18 and EA-18, as well as an airborne warning and control system, or an early warning aircraft.
Unnamed South Korean officials told the news agency that the training sorties would be based on simulating air battles that seek to neutralise an enemy’s air defence system with strong readiness and joint air firepower in the event of an emergency.
Exercise Max Thunder commander colonel Kim Heung-soo said: "We will continue to intensify our combat readiness through this kind of practical exercise and to further strengthen joint operations ability to sternly and strongly respond to enemy provocations."
Max Thunder is held twice a year, once on Gwangju Air Base (AB) hosted by the Republic of Korea Air Force and on Kunsan AB by the USAF. It aims to sharpen the US and Korean Forces’ responsive skills and their ability to work together against a hostile force during combat operations.
Specifically, the drill represents the air component-led portion of Exercise Foal Eagle, and fosters bilateral aerial training by simulating dog fights, quick alerts, close air support missions and the overall theme of employing and deploying a joint coalition and overcoming obstacles.
Image: A Republic of Korea Air Force F-15 Strike Eagle lands during Max Thunder 14-2 at Kunsan Air Base, South Korea. Photo: courtesy of US Air Force photo by Senior Airman Divine Cox / Released.