South Korea and the US are likely to conduct massive military drills next month amid rising tensions with North Korea.
Neither the South Korean nor the US have officially confirmed what this year’s annual drills may entail, but a series of hostile displays of military might hint at a more muscular show in the pipeline, Reuters reported.
Col. Lee Peters, a spokesman for U.S. Forces Korea (USFK), said its policy is not to comment on planned or executed combined exercises, but said training is something all militaries conduct to maintain readiness, proficiency, credibility and trust.
Earlier, the launch of a long-range intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) by North Korea is the latest signal of growing tensions in the region.
Flying for more than 67 minutes, the missile reached a height 15 times higher than the International Space Station before splashing down into the Sea of Japan. This recent success highlighted an expanding North Korean missile development program that is as impressive as it is worrying North Korea’s enemies.
According to a news report by Al Jazeera, North Korea fired the ICBM towards the sea off its east coast, as quoted by South Korea and Japan’s militaries respectively. This was the first largest missile test by North Korea since 2017.
The Hwasong-17, or North Korea’s ‘monster missile’ is the largest liquid-fueled ICBM in the world and could pose a threat to the world in terms of warfare. It is the biggest ICBM ever developed by the nation and is potentially lethal for any part of the United States.
Pyongyang confirmed the test and said in its support that it is all set to boost its defenses and preparedness for a “long confrontation” with the United States. In response to this showoff of military muscle power by the isolated country, South Korea found a better way to respond.
Staying unperturbed, the South Korean military test-fired multiple missiles and the Republic of Korea Air Force (ROKAF) conducted a prestigious “Elephant Walk” with its glaring 28 F-35s a day after North Korea’s test.
According to a report, Won In-choul, the South Korean Air Force General said the firing was part of a “joint ground-sea-air missile” live-fire exercise conducted from the East Sea at 4.25 pm local time (12.55 pm Indian Standard Time).
“Through the live fire, our military showed the immediate response and retaliatory capability and willingness” by firing one Hyunmoo-II surface-to-surface ballistic missile, one missile from the Army Tactical Missile System, one Haesong-II ship-to-ground cruise missile, and two Joint Direct Attack Munition air-to-ground missiles, he added.
Pic- The 75th anniversary of the ruling Workers’ Party where plans for the ICBM was first unveiled
South Korea’s Reaction
South Korea showed patience and strength in response to North Korea’s show of power with its most advanced F-35A aircraft in the parade.
It conducted an Elephant Walk including 28 out of 40 F-35A the ROKAF under the slogan of “Invisible power to protect South Korea.” It also symbolized the fact that South Korea’s military “will use the F-35A with all-weather stealth and precision strike capabilities to achieve overwhelming strategic victories and maintain a full military posture that will deter further North Korea’s actions”.
According to Hong Kong Oriental Daily News international news correspondent Ryan Chan’s Twitter post, “South Korea conducted a rare training involving its F-35A in a show of air power on Mar. 25, a day after North Korea test-fired an ICBM.
This marked the first major mobilization of the stealth fighters after South Korea Air Force completed the deployment of 40 F-35A in January.”
Tucked in the center of South Korea, at Cheongju AB, the F-35 fleet is home of ROKAF’s 17th Fighter Wing and its two other units, the 151 Fighter Squadron and 152 Fighter Squadron operating the 5th generation jet.
The line of exclusive aircraft was selected by South Korea at the end of its F-X III fighter acquisition program with the US in 2014. South Korea ordered a total of around 40 F-35A and additional 20 aircraft later.
What Is Elephant Walk?
Used for the first time in the era of World War 2, an Elephant Walk is a USAF term that denotes assembling fighter aircraft for taxiing right before takeoff, or after landing.
It is generally used as a tactic to display war capabilities and deterrence. Most of the time, Elephant Walks are a way of telling the world, and especially the adversaries that they are strong and prepared for any war.
There are many benefits of an Elephant Walk where one country can openly demonstrate its potential of units and teamwork. As a mass event, the Walk prepares squadrons for wartime operations.
They are symbolic of strength, togetherness and pose as a great psychological way of handling the enemy.