Seoul: South Korea and the US are slated to conduct a joint aerial exercise in October that will focus on striking North Korea’s nuclear facilities, military officials said on Monday.
The simulated strikes will be carried out during the advanced Red Flag exercise to be held at Eielson air force base in Alaska from October 3-21, Yonhap News Agency reported.
The move is aimed at improving the South Korean air forces’ combat capabilities amid evolving nuclear and missile threats from North Korea.
“The drill will be held with the scenario of a sudden missile attack from North Korea. It is also designed to practice striking the North’s nuclear and other core military facilities,” a military official said.
South Korea plans to send six F-15Ks and two C-130 Hercules transport aircraft to Red Flag this year.
“F-15Ks are expected to carry out a mission to strike the North’s nuclear facility in Yeongbyeon, more than 100 km north of the country’s capital city of Pyongyang, with GBU-31JDAM (Joint Direct Attack Munition) guided bombs,” he said.
Earlier this month, North Korea said it “successfully” conducted a nuclear test — its fifth and the “most powerful” test so far.
Pyongyang has conducted a series of ballistic missile launches since top North Korean leader Kim Jong-un gave an order on March 15 to test a nuclear warhead and ballistic rockets capable of carrying the warhead “in a short time”.
North Korea is banned by UN sanctions from any tests of nuclear or missile technology.
Since their inception in 1975, the Red Flag exercises have served as the pinnacle of air-to-air combat training for airmen. The purpose is to give pilots from the US, Nato (North Atlantic Treaty Organisation) and other allies an opportunity to practice and refine their skills for real combat situations.