A massive military training exercise involving some 100 combat aircraft is underway in South Korea amidst ongoing tensions with its Northern neighbour.
The ‘Max Thunder’ exercise began on 14 April and continues until 29 April. Besides the aircraft, approximately 1,200 troops – including US troops on deployment in Japan – are taking part. The USAF, US Navy, US Marine Corps, US Army and the Republic of Korea (ROK) armed forces have all contributed assets.
The annual Max Thunder exercises are staged to – in United States Pacific Command’s (USPACOM’s) words – ‘sustain and build upon skills important to defending the security of the Korean Peninsula.’
Max Thunder 17 is happening at Kunsan Air Base – exercise host unit the 8th Fighter Wing’s home. It takes place with tensions between North and South Korea in continued ascent.
Max Thunder 17 Participation
US military Max Thunder 17 involvement consists of:
Republic of Korea Air Force (RoKAF) Max Thunder 17 participation includes
- Boeing F-15K Slam Eagle strike fighters equipped with Sniper Advanced Targeting Pods
- Korean Aerospace Industries KF-16 Block 52 Fighting Falcon multirole fighters
- McDonnell Douglas F-4E Phantom II interceptors/fighter-bombers
- KAI (Korea Aerospace Industries) FA-50 light attack aircraft
USAF And RoKAF Training
"Exercise Max Thunder serves as an invaluable opportunity for US and RoKAF forces to train together shoulder-to-shoulder and sharpen tactical skills vital to the defense and security of the Korean Peninsula”, explains 7th Air Force Commander, Lieutenant General Thomas Bergeson, in comments that ‘Air Force Times’ quotes. "This exercise”, he adds, “will rigorously test our aerial combat capability and highlights the ironclad commitment between the US and the Republic of Korea and the multifaceted capabilities we possess in this theater.”
“Through the training this time, the South Korean and US air forces have demonstrated the capability to perfectly overwhelm an enemy and respond to any form of provocation anytime and anywhere”, adds South Korean Air Force Operations Command’s Lieutenant General Won In-chul, according to the ‘Korea Herald.’
Symbolising this exercise’s cooperative spirit, Friday 21 April’s Max Thunder sorties will see lieutenant generals Bergeson and Won swap aircraft as they take control of a RoKAF FA-50 and USAF F-16C, respectively.
8th Fighter Wing F-16 and RoKAF F-15K Slam Eagle images copyright USAF – courtesy Wikimedia Commons