July 27, 2010 11:42
Monday saw a second day of South Korea-U.S. naval exercises in the East Sea, a show of force code-named "Invincible Spirit" in response to North Korea's sinking of the Navy corvette Cheonan in March.
A day before the 57th anniversary of the armistice that halted the Korean War, the two allies conducted an anti-submarine drill, and a joint formation and mid-aid refueling drill in the air over the Korean Peninsula joined by F-22 stealth fighter jets.
Unprecedentedly, the press were invited to watch the aerial drill over the nuclear-powered U.S. aircraft carrier George Washington in the East Sea and look at the F-22s or "Raptors" at Osan Air Base in Gyeonggi Province.
Two of four F-22s from Kadena Air Base in Okinawa, Japan were shown combat-ready at a hangar of the 5th U.S. Reconnaissance Squadron at Osan that morning. It was the first time they have ever been open to the public here and have ever taken part in a joint South Korea-U.S. exercise.
Lt. Gen. Jeffrey Remington, commander of the 7th U.S. Air Force, said that the deployment of F-22s for the drills demonstrates Washington's strong commitment to deter and defeat any provocative acts that threaten the stability of the Korean Peninsula and Northeast Asia.
He said, "As with all of our combined air assets in theater, the F-22s stand ready to respond in the defense of the Republic of Korea." The air readiness exercise with the F-22 fighter jets "provides valuable combined training as well as demonstrates the resolve and support for our Republic of Korea allies," he added.
The supersonic jet can launch precision strikes at strategic targets any place in North Korea 30 minutes to an hour after taking off from Kadena.
A combined fleet of 13 vessels, including the USS George Washington, three Aegis destroyers, the Los Angeles-class nuclear-powered attack submarine USS Tucson, and Asia's largest landing ship Dokdo and the Korean-type destroyer Choi Young, took part in waters 160 km northeast off Pohang, North Gyeongsang Province.
In the afternoon some 30 fighter jets including the F-22s, FA-18E/F Super Hornets, FA-18C/D Hornets and KF-16s, appeared over the aircraft carrier before flying north.
No live torpedoes or depth charges were launched during Monday's drill, but live bombs are to detonate on Tuesday.
In the mid-air refueling drill, a KC-135 jet from the U.S. Air Forces' 18th Wing in Okinawa provided fuel for four F-16 jets over the Ulleung and Dokdo Islands. It was the first time a mid-air refueling drill has been carried out in the air over the islands, which are seen as symbolic of Korea's sovereignty.
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