Seoul, South Korea - South Korea and the United States are scheduled to hold a joint large-scale aerial exercise next week, Seoul's Air Force announced on Friday.
According to a new release by Yonhap News Agency, dubbed Vigilant Defense 24, will commence on Monday and run for five days. The operation aims to bolster combined operational capabilities against military threats from North Korea. The exercise will involve approximately 130 South Korean and U.S. aircraft.
The South Korean forces will contribute F-35A fighters, E-737 airborne early warning and control aircraft, and KC-330 tanker transport aircraft. The U.S. forces will participate with F-35A and F-35B fighters, along with other warplanes. U.S. F-35A fighters are being deployed from the mainland for the exercise, and FA-18, F-35B, and other aircraft based in Japan will also be part of the operation.
Throughout the five days, the allied forces will conduct round-the-clock aerial drills. These exercises will include airborne alert interdiction and close air support operations, aiming to improve the interoperability of the advanced fighter jets from both countries.
An Australian KC-30A multi-role tanker transport aircraft will also join the training, providing air-to-air refueling capabilities for South Korean and U.S. warplanes during the exercise.
The U.S. 7th Air Force, under U.S. Forces Korea, underscored the defensive nature of Vigilant Defense 24. It stated that the exercise is not intended to be "provocative" toward any specific country, emphasizing its defensive nature and disconnect from any current real-world threats or situations.
The exercise comes in the backdrop of ongoing tension between the allies and North Korea. The North has consistently accused South Korea and the U.S. of using joint military drills as practice for an invasion. During last year's Vigilant Storm 23, a precursor to this year's exercise, North Korea carried out a series of missile launches.