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F-22 Raptors in South Korea as warning to 'provocative' North

American F-22 Raptors have joined locally based F-16s and F-15K Slam Eagles in South Korea for a show of force following “provocative actions” by the North.

Considered the world’s premier air superiority fighter, the Lockheed Martin-built supercruise jet was sent to the Korean Peninsula from Kadena Air Base in Okinawa, Japan.

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The deployment comes on the heels of a nuclear-capable Boeing B-52 bomber overflight of Osan Air Base, south of Seoul, after North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un claimed the North had tested a new hydrogen bomb on 6 January.

The F-22 has become a popular tool for demonstrating Washington’s military resolve and commitment to allies.

“The combined nature of this flyover highlighted the high level of integration and interoperability between our two air forces, developed through decades of combined training,” says USAF Lt Col Nicholas Evans, commander of the Korea-based 36th Fighter Squadron, which operates F-16s. “Furthermore, the inclusion of F-22s and a B-52 in January demonstrated the firm resolve of all [US] forces as we stand united with our counterparts from the [Republic of Korea] Air Force.”

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If the Raptors were ever sent North to fight, they would face a decaying air fleet mostly outdated Soviet-era types – the most modern and capable being the Mikoyan MiG-29 “Fulcrum” procured from the Soviet Union in the late 1980s, as well as the swing-wing MiG-23 and Sukhoi Su-25 ground-attack jet. According to a report published in February by the US Office of the Secretary of Defense, North Korean counts 1,300 aircraft in its inventory, but American air power would have more difficulty dealing with "deeply integrated and mobile" surface-to-air missile threats.

“The majority of its aircraft are less-capable MiG-15s, MiG-17s, MiG-19s (F-6) and MiG-21s,” the report states. “The North Korean Air Force operates a large fleet of [Antonov] An-2 Colt aircraft, which is 1940s vintage single-engine, 10-passenger biplanes, likely tasked with inserting special operations forces into the Republic of Korea.

“The air force is rounded out with several hundred helicopters that would be used for troop transport and ground attack, including predominantly [Mil] Mi-2 Hoplites some US-made MD-500 helicopters obtained by circumventing US export controls in 1985.”

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If war were to again flare-up on the peninsula, the report estimates that the North’s overwhelming ground force would wreak devastation on Seoul and other regions bordering the demilitarised zone (DMZ). However, it would likely be swiftly routed by the combined might of American and ROK forces, which are technologically superior.

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