September 02, 2019 12:25
The U.S. Forces Korea is expected to deploy state-of-the-art F-35A stealth fighter jets at major air bases here in place of the current bread-and-butter F-16s. A South Korean government spokesman on Sunday said they will be deployed from early 2020s.
Separately, the South Korean Air Force plans to deploy 40 F-35As by 2021. The stealth fighters will replace the USFK's existing F-16 fighter jets, of which some 60 are stationed at Osan Air Base in Pyeongtaek, Gyeonggi Province and the one in Gunsan, North Jeolla Province.
The U.S. Pacific Air Forces Command did not deny the reports but sidestepped the question by saying it is working to build strategic bases in the Indo-Pacific region, with the U.S. Air Force deploying weapons in due course.
"The U.S. considers the deployment of F-35As from a strategic perspective in the Indo-Pacific region targeting not only North Korea but also China," a South Korean military spokesman commented.
Back in July, Gen. Charles Brown, the commander of the U.S. Pacific Air Forces, said some 220 F-35 fighters will be deployed for U.S. troops and allies in the region by 2025.
North Korea and China are unlikely to be pleased. North Korea has responded extremely sensitively to the South Korean Air Force's recent procurement of F-35As and launched missile provocations in a fit of protest. China is also expected to protest but has its own state-of-the-art stealth fighters.
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