Massive air exercise Max Thunder 17 gets underway on Korean Peninsula
As tensions on the Korean Peninsula continue to ratchet up, more than 1,000 U.S. military personnel from the Air Force, Navy, Marine Corps and Army, and about 500 Republic of Korea troops, are taking part in the bilateral Max Thunder exercise, which began Monday.
Hosted at Kunsan Air Base through April 29, the annual exercise, which has been in the planning stages for months, is designed to improve interoperability between South Korean and U.S. forces, who will be operating out of air bases in Korea and Japan.
U.S. Navy Airman Austin Russem, assigned to the Electronic Attack Squadron 138, Whidbey Island, Wash., performs a pre-flight inspection on an EA-18 Growler during Max Thunder 16 at Kunsan Air Base, South Korea, April 18, 2016. Max Thunder is part of a continuous exercise program to enhance interoperability between U.S. and South Korean forces. This year's exercise kicked off Monday amid rising tensions with North Korea.Photo Credit: Staff Sgt. Nick Wilson/Air Force It comes just one day after Vice President Mike Pence visited Korea’s Demilitarized Zone and issued a stern warning to North Korea that U.S. tolerance for its nuclear ambitions is at an end. The warning followed a failed missile launch from North Korea Sunday.
"Exercise Max Thunder serves as an invaluable opportunity for U.S. and ROKAF forces to train together shoulder-to-shoulder and sharpen tactical skills vital to the defense and security of the Korean Peninsula," said Lt. Gen. Thomas Bergeson, 7th Air Force commander, in a press release. "This exercise will rigorously test our aerial combat capability and highlights the ironclad commitment between the U.S. and the Republic of Korea and the multifaceted capabilities we possess in this theater."
Aircraft taking part in the exercise include F-16 Fighting Falcons from the 7th Air Force, AV-8B Harriers from the 12th Marine Aircraft Group, and EA-18G Growlers from the Navy’s Electronic Attack Squadron 132. Also taking part will be F-15K Slam Eagles, F-4E Phantom IIs, F-5E Tiger IIs, KA-1 Woongbi light attack aircraft, C-130s, HH-60 helicopters and CN 235 tactical transport aircraft, according to Pacific Command.