US jets conduct bomb drill over Korean peninsula

Indo Asian News Service

Seoul, March 25 (IANS) A group of US stealth fighter planes carried out the first precision bombing drill on the Korean peninsula this week, American military officials in South Korea said on Saturday.

Aircraft from a US air base in Japan participated in the drill as part of the Korean Marine Exchange Programme developed by Washington and Seoul, which took place between Monday and Thursday, according to the officials.

The F-35B fighters carried out a precision air-to-surface bombing manoeuvre on a mountain range in Gangwon province, east of Seoul, before returning to their base in Japan.

It is the first time that F-35B fighters, which can reach a speed of Mach 1.6 (around 1,900 km per hour) and are known for being strategic bombers, have taken part in a maneuver on the Korean peninsula, Efe news reported.

The drill comes at a time of growing tension in the region, after North Korea carried out a record number of nuclear and missile tests in 2016.

The deployment of military assets for this year's drills - conducted from early this month to Friday - was the largest to date. The US allocated 10 F-35B fighters to its Japanese air base in Iwakuni in January and six more are expected to be sent by the end of the year.

In case of any contingency on the peninsula, one of the first US forces to support South Korea would depart from the Japanese base, the officials added.