March 17, 2022 12:06
South Korea and the U.S. militaries could resume a massive long-range bomber drill for the first time in five years in response to North Korea's flurry of missile launches, a government official here said Wednesday.
The warning came after North Korea conducted several tests geared toward building a suspected intercontinental ballistic missile.
The "Blue Lightning" exercise practices bombing key facilities in the North by sending B-52H long-range bombers or B-1B strategic bombers from Andersen Air Force Base in Guam to the Korean Peninsula.
It involves bombers, fighters, electronic-warfare aircraft, and air-to-air refueling aircraft of both the South Korean and U.S. air forces, as well as fighter jets from the Japan Air Self-Defense Force.
A military source here said the combined fleet "could incapacitate most key facilities in the North."
The last time Blue Lightning was staged was 2017, when North Korea's nuclear and missile provocations were at their peak. In May 2018, the U.S. also conducted the exercise outside South Korean airspace because Seoul declined to take part amid a deceptive thaw in ties with North Korea.
The U.S. military is expected to mobilize a variety of other strategic weapons depending on Pyongyang's provocations. On Tuesday, the U.S. Indo-Pacific Command conducted a show of force over the West Sea by scrambling F-35C stealth fighters from an aircraft carrier.
A military spokesman here said, "The military will also conduct its own missile defense training and a joint exercise with the U.S. military if the North launches an ICBM."
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