Vigilant Ace 18 is here.
America is Training F-22, F-35, F-15 and F-16 Pilots to Destroy North Korea’s Nuclear Weapons
The United States Air Force and the Republic of Korea Air Force are kicking off their massive Vigilant Ace 18 annual wargames just days after the North Korea tested its Hwasong-15 intercontinental ballistic missile on November 28.
The massive week-long simulated air warfare exercise will include no less than a total of 230 aircraft including six stealthy top-of-the-line Lockheed Martin F-22 Raptor air superiority fighters and six—possibly as many as 18—Lockheed Martin F-35 Joint Strike Fighters. While the exercise comes on the heels of North Korea’s missile test, the timing of the wargames is purely coincidence. U.S. and Korean forces have been preparing the for Vigilant Ace for weeks.
“In the event we need to help defend our 51 million Korean allies, I need to be sure the 51st Fighter Wing is synchronized with the Combined-Joint force,” Col. William D. Betts, commander of the Osan, Korea-based 51st Fighter Wing—which flies the venerable Lockheed Martin F-16 Fighting Falcon—said in a statement.
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“Vigilant Ace is an opportunity for us to do just that; focus on getting smarter, faster and more capable than we were yesterday while we generate combat airpower and strengthen the alliance.”
The focus of the Vigilant Ace exercise is bilateral training on mutual support procedures and further improving the understanding and trust between the two nations’ military forces in the event of war—which under present circumstances is not an abstract concept.
“The threat here on the peninsula is very real, and countering that threat needs to be in the forefront of our minds,” Betts said.
“My biggest expectation for the Wing is to remove any ‘exercise’ mindset from the equation and maximize the realism of every response. We will ensure we have no regrets if we find ourselves executing contingency operations.”
The joint U.S. and South Korean aerial armada includes American aircraft from the Air Force, Navy and the Marine Corps. F-22 Raptors, F-35 Lightning IIs, F-16 Fighting Falcons, F-15 Eagles, F/A-18 Hornets and EA-18G Growlers will be flying alongside South Korean F-15K…