US, South Korea Begin Largest-Ever Joint Air Drill

South Korea and the US are conducting aerial drills a week after another North Korean missile test

South Korea and the US are conducting aerial drills a week after another North Korean missile test

The annual joint drills named "Vigilant ACE" will be held on the Korean Peninsula until Friday.

Two dozen American stealth jets and several weapons are being mobilised as the US and South Korea embarked on a massive aerial drill on Monday, 4 December, in a strong show of force against the reclusive North Korean regime.

Some Marine F-35Bs, stationed in Japan, will also take part in the training exercise.

Moon Sang-gyun, a defense ministry spokesperson, said the goal of the joint air combat drill was to "enhance the capability of executing combined operations in wartime".

"The drill would be unprecedented in its size and nature of simulating actual combat situation as well as in the number of the US major strategic assets including F-22 Raptor and F-35 stealth fighters to be involved", the ministry said Saturday in the English-language document released by Pyongyang's media.

The large-scale maneuvers, reportedly "the largest-ever combined air force drills between the allies" will also involve dozens of other fighter jets on both sides, as well as American B-1B Lancer strategic bombers and carrier-based electronic warfare aircraft.

About 12,000 USA personnel and 230 aircraft will take part in the drill.

Local media on Monday, however, suggested that 260 fighters would be deployed - reports the U.S. Seventh Air Force said it was "looking into".

South Korean officials insisted the exercise is only for the defensive purposes.

North Korea lashed out against the drills.

Pyongyang will "seriously consider" countermeasures against the drill, and the USA and South Korea will "pay dearly for their provocations", the Korean Central News Agency said on Sunday before the start of the exercises.

The massive air combat drill came less than a week after the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) launched Hwasong-15, which it called a newly developed intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM), on November 29.

A spokesman for the ruling party-linked Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of the Country (CPRC) on Sunday warned of "terrible retaliation" in response, the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) reported.

Pyongyang over the weekend blasted the drill, accusing US President Donald's Trump's administration of "begging for nuclear war".

The U.S. aircraft will fly alongside South Korean F-15K, KF-16, and F-5 fighters, as well as other aviation assets.

North Korea typically begins its own winter military exercises in December.

"It's aimed at enhancing the all-weather, day and night combined air power operation capabilities of South Korea and the USA", said the South Korean defence ministry.

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