US jets to Korea: Why send stealth fighters to the region? (+video)
US jets, Korea bound, constitute Washington's latest move in the face of heightened tensions on the Korean peninsula. The presence of the stealth fighters could figure into several American aims.
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“While the [B-2] operation was an exercise, the North undeniably must have been unsettled by this demonstration of long-range force projection by the United States,” writes Victor Cha, a Korea expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), in an analysis.Skip to next paragraph
Peter Grier is The Christian Science Monitor's Washington editor. In this capacity, he helps direct coverage for the paper on most news events in the nation's capital.
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Second, the F-22s may represent something of an attempt to educate the inexperienced Mr. Kim.
North Korea’s conventional artillery and missiles can threaten most of South Korea and parts of Japan, notes a Foreign Policy article by David Kang, a professor of international relations at the University of Southern California, and Mr. Cha of CSIS. Pyongyang could hit Seoul with half a million artillery rounds in the first hour of a conflict. Stability has held for decades in the face of this threat because North Korea’s leaders understood that if they pulled the trigger, the US military would defeat them and topple their regime.
Does Kim understand that context?
“The worry is that the new North Korean leader might not hold to the same logic, given his youth and inexperience,” write Mr. Kang and Cha.
Last, there is a practical aspect to the F-22 deployment – getting US pilots used to the structure and terrain of a region where they might be called upon to fly real missions.
In any war, US cruise missiles would probably take out North Korea’s air defenses with little trouble. Pyongyang’s geriatric Air Force constitutes little threat, notes David Cenciotti on his widely read blog “The Aviationist.”
F-22s would probably escort bombers to targets within North Korea, then hit targets of their own, according to Mr. Cenciotti.
“The F-22 can be tasked to escort bombers into an anti-access target area (a superfluous task when air superiority has been already achieved) and then perform an immediate restrike on the same target attacked by the B-2, B-52, or B-1 bombers being accompanied, or attack another nearby ground target, if needed,” Cenciotti writes.
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