SEOUL – The United States will deploy six F-22 Raptor fighters in joint air force maneuvers with South Korea in early December.
The aircraft will fly as part of the joint South Korea-US air force “Vigilant Ace” exercise between Dec. 4-8, a spokesperson for the South Korean Ministry of Defense confirmed to EFE.
According to South Korean media, this marks the first time that the US has deployed six F-22 Raptor fighters at the same time on the Korean peninsula, which will further pressure Pyongyang after Washington already deployed three nuclear-powered aircraft carriers near North Korean waters for the first time in a decade in early November.
The F-22 fighter jets, which are capable of executing precision attacks under the radar, will depart for the drill from the Kadena Air Base on the Japanese island of Okinawa and will stay at a US base in South Korea during the exercise.
Up to four F-35 Lighting stealth fighters are also likely to join the biannual “Vigilant Ace” exercise, which simulates their defensive strategies in the event of war, according to Yonhap news agency.
The deployment of six fighters on the peninsular is part of a recent agreement signed between Washington and Seoul, which aims at expanding “rotational deployment” of US strategic assets on the Korean peninsula and pressuring North Korea to drop its nuclear program.
Although Pyongyang has not conducted any weapons tests for more than two months, the upcoming maneuvers are expected to trigger criticism from Pyongyang, which considers these military drills an attempt to invade North Korea.
North Korea’s repeated weapons tests and US President Donald Trump’s aggressive remarks towards Pyongyang have escalated regional tensions to a level rarely seen since the end of the Korean War of 1950-1953.