U.S. Pacific Command, which oversees military operations in the region, disclosed the mission Thursday. Two B-1B bombers from Andersen Air Force Base in Guam and four F-35Bs from Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni in Japan joined with two Japanese F-15Js and four South Korean F-15Ks, flying in formation across the Korean Peninsula and unleashing live bombs on the Pilsung Range.
“North Korea’s actions are a threat to our allies, partners and homeland, and their destabilizing actions will be met accordingly,” said Gen. Terrence J. O’Shaughnessy, the commander of U.S. Pacific Air Forces, in a statement. “This complex mission clearly demonstrates our solidarity with our allies and underscores the broadening cooperation to defend against this common regional threat.”
The 10-hour mission is the latest show of force involving U.S. fighter and bomber aircraft as North Korea continues its nuclear weapons and ballistic missile programs. North Korea launched a ballistic missile over northern Japan early Tuesday, warning afterward that it was a first step in having a “Pacific operation.”
The mission marks the first use of the F-35B in such a mission and appears to be an effort to send a message to Pyongyang. The stealthy “fifth-generation” aircraft is considered the most advanced in the Pentagon’s fleet of aircraft. It shows up as about the size of a bird on radar, making it hard for enemy forces to track. The F-35 can also serve as a quarterback for other U.S. combat aircraft flying alongside it.
Lt. Gen. David H. Berger, the commander of U.S. Marine Corps Forces Pacific, said in a statement that the F-35 contributes to the overall security and stability of the region and embodies a commitment to U.S. allies.
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