Soon after a brief on a flight drill, Lt. Col. Lee Jae-deuk, director of the 121st Fighter Squadron of the 20th Fighter Wing, called on the pilots who are about to make a sortie, “Reminding yourselves of the motto of 46 Cheoan warriors ‚We perform our missions devoting our mind and body to the country,‘ you fighter pilots should perform your duties with a form conviction of ultimate victory.“
The Fighter Wing conducted on March 21 a fighters maximum sortie level drill comprising quickly arming fighters with the maximum of weapons and then taking off, and destroying assumed key enemy targets including the commanding group.
This drill was designed, ahead of the Seoul Nuclear Security Summit and the second anniversary of the Cheonan sinking, to show a strong will to breaking the will of provocation of the enemy and to strike even the initial stage of enemy provocation.
KF-16 fighters armed with various weapons was taking off one by one in the early morning in the airfield of the 29th Air Force Fighter Wing.
As soon as an order to destroy key enemy targets was issued, all the weapon technicians and maintenance crew of the base began to load KF-16 fighters buzzing around with air-to-air missiles like AIM-9M sidewinders, JDAM guided bombs, and AGM-65G maverick missiles.
While a group of weapon technicians is composed of five, for this drill to master the more operations capabilities in time of war, a group is made up of four in order for the technicians to be able to arm the fighters with a maximum of weapons in the shortest time. The technicians had to carefully yet quickly load the aircraft with a heavy JDAM weighing one ton.
„Since last year, we have been capable of installing the Joint Direct Attack Munition(JDAM)-equipped precision-guided weapon onto KF-16 Fighters, our munition systems specialists have refined their skill to accurately and quickly arm an aircraft with that weapon,“ said Cap. Yang Si-seok, leader of the Aircraft Maintenance Squadron. „We will do our best to keep enhancing the ability to employ weapons until being capable of punishing thoroughly the starting point of enemy provocations.
Finished arming with weapons to get ready to fly sorties, KF-16 fighters moved onto the runway in a finger four formation to finally get them checked. Soon afterward, the aircraft soared up blowing out flames to the sky as if they have waited for this very moment for so long.
The runway was heated up by flying one sortie after another, and the air around it was shimmering with heat. The maximum sortie exercise in which dozens of fighters made sorties was focused on communicating organically and following the standard procedure, because the participants‘ momentary loss of concentration in an urgent condition can lead to very big accidents.
Watching the fighters flying gradually farther away, the director of the 212nd Fighter Squadron emphasized, „Modern warfare is precision strike warfare,“ and then explained, „Each of the fighters is to quickly and completely strike its important strategic spot of the enemy, such as a command center, radar site, coastal artillery, and warship.“
The squadron of KF-16 fighters, assigned to the West Sea, had carried out their missions like an air-to-air and air-to-surface combat for more than one hour and a live ordnance exercise bombing on assumed targets, and returned safely to the base.
„We know the Korean people have had great expectations of the Air Force since the sinking of the Cheonan naval vessel incident and the artillery shelling of Yeonpyeong Island,“ the director of the 212nd Fighter Squadron said, „so the Air Force will resolutely punish any enemy provocations.“
In the meantime, the 20th Fighter Wing was arranged into two teams to conduct its operations, each consisting of the flight squadron and aviation maintenance squadron. Each team undertook various drills including making exigent sorties, urgent return to the base, re-mobilization, and emergency refueling.
Ministry of National Defense[MND], Republic of Korea