Seoul, Dec. 6 (IANS): The US Air Force flew a B-1B supersonic bomber over the Korean peninsula on Wednesday as part of a massive joint aerial drill with South Korea in another show of strength against the weapons challenge posed by Pyongyang.
Several F-35 stealth jets and F-16 fighters of the US, as well as F-15Ks and KF-16s of the South, joined the exercise at the Pilsung Firing Range in Gangwon Province, according to the Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS).
It was part of the annual Vigilant ACE air combat drills, which started on Monday for a five-day run, Yonhap news agency reported.
Two dozen F-22 and F-35 stealth fighters of the US are taking part in the exercise, the largest joint air drills ever recorded on the Korean peninsula, with 230 aircraft and some 12,000 troops mobilized.
“Through the exercise, the South Korean and US Air Forces have demonstrated the alliance’s strong will and capability for strong retaliation against North Korea’s nuclear and missile threats,” the JCS said.
It is increasingly common for the US to deploy B-1B bombers over South Korea to underline military superiority against North Korea. Last time it was done in November shortly before the US President Donald Trump’s visit to South Korea as part of his Asia tour.
The drill is taking place as the UN’s political chief Jeffrey Feltman is in North Korea for dialogue in a rare visit by a senior UN official.
Although the annual Vigilant Ace exercise was planned ahead of Pyongyang’s latest ballistic missile launch on November 29, it serves as a strong response to the test.
The North Korean Army’s test firing of the Hwasong-15, its most advanced intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) to date has put the regime closer to striking the US with nuclear weapons.
South Korea’s military also plans to launch a combat unit of weaponised drones called “dronebots” next year, Yonhap reported quoting an unnamed official.
The “dronebots” would conduct reconnaissance on core North Korean targets such as nuclear and missile sites, and could also launch attacks, though the report did not give further details on how this could be done.