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(LEAD) U.S. deploys F-22s in S. Korea against N. Korea

2016/02/17 14:10

(ATTN: UPDATES with more info in paras 6, 9-15 & photo)

SEOUL, Feb. 17 (Yonhap) -- A formation of four U.S. F-22 stealth fighters swept through the skies of South Korea on Wednesday as the militaries of South Korea and the U.S. flexed their muscles against North Korea following its nuclear and missile tests.

The four F-22 Raptors flew at a low altitude over U.S. Forces Korea's Osan Air Base in Gyeonggi Province, 55 kilometers south of Seoul, in the latest of the allies' continuing show of force after North Korea's recent provocations.

In defiance of United Nations Security Council resolutions, the communist country conducted its fourth nuclear test on Jan. 6, followed by a long-range rocket launch on Feb. 7, which the outside world denounced as a test of ballistic missile technology.

Four days after the nuke test in January, a U.S. B-52 bomber flew over South Korea as the allies took to deterring North Korea from further escalating military tensions.

The nuclear-propelled USS North Carolina attack submarine joined a combined training exercise in the East Sea with South Korea earlier this week, while the nuclear-powered aircraft carrier USS John C. Stennis is also scheduled to join annual South Korea-U.S. defense drills slated to open in March.

Raptors are the world's most advanced stealth combat aircraft, capable of secretly breaking into the airspace of an enemy to drop nuclear bombs.

Previous deployments of the fighter on the Korean Peninsula reportedly scared late North Korean leader Kim Jong-il into holing up and not making public outings.

It is rare for the U.S. to deploy four units of the stealth fighter to South Korea all at once.

The airplanes coming from the U.S. Kadena Air Base in Okinawa, Japan, landed at the Osan base after the flyover, which was joined by four F-15K Slam Eagle fighters from the South Korean Air Force and four other F-16 Fighting Falcons by USFK.

Two Raptors will remain deployed in South Korea "for a while," while the other two will return to the home base, according to military sources.

"The F-22 Raptor is the most capable air superiority fighter in the world and it represents one of many capabilities available for the defense of this great nation," Lt. Gen. Terrence O'Shaughnessy, USFK deputy commander and 7th Air Force commander, said told reporters after the landing. "The U.S. maintains an ironclad commitment to the defense of the Republic of Korea."

   USFK said in a statement that the latest mission "demonstrates the strength of the alliance between the U.S. and South Korea and the resolve of both to maintain stability on the Korean Peninsula."

   Three internal weapons bays of the Raptor can accommodate AIM-120 beyond-visual-range air-to-air missiles and AIM-9 short-range anti-aircraft missiles, or two 1,000-pound air-to-surface bombs with Joint Direct Attack Munition guidance.

The fighter has a maximum speed of Mach 2.5 with the range of operations reaching some 2,177 kilometers.

In the event of an emergency, Raptors could arrive on the peninsula within two hours after departing the Okinawa base.

U.S.F-22 stealth fighters fly above Osan Air Base on Feb. 17, 2016 in a demonstration of military power against North Korea. (Yonhap) U.S.F-22 stealth fighters fly above Osan Air Base on Feb. 17, 2016 in a demonstration of military power against North Korea. (Yonhap)

pbr@yna.co.kr

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