United States, South Korea start massive air force drills

United States, South Korea start massive air force drills

The simulation of a possible war-time scenario is part of the major air force exercise dubbed Vigilant Ace.

The Air Forces of South Korea and the USA kicked off massive joint drills on Monday, mobilizing about 230 aircraft, including six U.S. F-22 Raptor stealth fighter jets.

Seoul's Unification Ministry rebuked the criticism, saying that the drills are defense exercises conducted annually.

This is the first time that the U.S. has deployed six F-22 at one time in the Korean peninsula, which serves as another warning to Pyongyang after the latter launched a Hwasong-15 intercontinental ballistic missile - its most sophisticated missile to date - on Wednesday.

It is also known to be able to fly at a speed of greater than 1.5 Mach (1150.9 mp/h).

South Korea and the United States began a five-day military exercise involving 12,000 personnel and over 230 warplanes Monday.

The isolated and impoverished North has staged six increasingly powerful atomic tests since 2006 - most recently in September.

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North Korea's latest missile is believed by experts to be capable of reaching all parts of the continental U.S. Despite its range, though, reports say U.S. officials now believe the missile likely did not survive re-entry into the Earth's atmosphere.

The North has long labeled regular South Korea-U.S. military exercises as a rehearsal for invasion.

The U.S. and South Korean air force will also practice strikes on Korean People's Army (KPA) long-range artillery and practice maneuvers block marine infiltration by North Korean special forces. An editorial carried by the North Korean mouthpiece Rodong Sinmun said the drill is "an open, all-out provocation" and that it "may lead to a nuclear war at any moment".

North Korea denounced the drills in a series of statements over the weekend. Pyongyang condemned the scheduled annual drill.

The Vigilant Ace 18 drills, which Seoul claims are of a purely "defensive nature", will see hundreds of US and South Korea's aircraft honing their skills by attacking mock North Korean nuclear and missile objects in different war time scenarios, Yonhap reported, citing South Korea's defense ministry.

This is the first time six F-22 Raptors are participating in a drill in the region.

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