ROK‑U.S. joint air defense exercise ‘Max Thunder’ underway

F‑15K fight­er jet pilots arriv­ing at the First Fight­er Wing to par­tic­i­pate in the exer­cise. The drill of this year involves 60 war­planes. Pro­vid­ed by the Kore­an Air Force

F‑15K fight­er jets stand by on the First Air Base in Gwangju on May 7. The com­bat air­craft cur­rent­ly par­tic­i­pate in the first 2012 Max Thun­der exer­cise, a ROK‑U.S. bilat­er­al bian­nu­al large-scale air defense exer­cise con­duct­ed by the ROK Air Force Oper­a­tions Com­mand and the 7th U.S. Air Force. Pro­vid­ed by Kore­an Air Force
Source: MND, Repub­lic of Korea
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Kore­an and U.S. Air Forces on May 7 launched their first largest-ever and longest-ever 2012 Max Thun­der, a bilat­er­al train­ing exer­cise designed to demon­strate inter­op­er­abil­i­ty between ROK and U.S. air forces on the Kore­an Penin­su­la.

The joint exer­cise under the lead­er­ship of the Kore­an Air Force Oper­a­tions Com­mand will con­tin­ue until May 8 and is being mobi­lized large­ly over the south­west­ern air­space of the Penin­su­la.

The exer­cise involves a total of 60 planes con­sist­ing of 38 from ROK Air Force includ­ing F‑15K fight­ers and 22 from the U.S. Air Force includ­ing an ear­ly warn­ing and con­trol sys­tem sur­veil­lance plane.

Dur­ing the 12-day exer­cise peri­od, based on a sce­nario repli­cat­ing the ini­tial stages of was, the com­bined air forces are expect­ed to improve their air defense oper­a­tions capa­bil­i­ties.

The oper­a­tions are large­ly com­prised of ‘air inter­dic­tion,’ an air oper­a­tion con­duct­ed to dis­turb, delay, neu­tral­ize, or destroy ene­my forces before they attack friend­ly ground and sea forces, and ‘defen­sive counter-air,’ anoth­er air core oper­a­tion designed to detect, iden­ti­fy, inter­cept, and destroy or negate ene­my forces attempt­ing to attack or pen­e­trate the friend­ly air envi­ron­ment.

This year’s Max Thun­der marks the first time per­son­nel from the Kore­an Army Spe­cial Forces Com­mand par­tic­i­pate in a bomb­ing and a search and res­cue drill to strength­en joint­ness between dif­fer­ent branch­es of the armed forces.

The Com­mand mem­bers is to infil­trate into the enemy’s deep area receiv­ing sup­plies air­dropped by friend­ly car­go planes to direct friend­ly fight­ers to, by deliv­er­ing core tar­get intel­li­gence, accu­rate­ly bomb the tar­gets.

The Com­mand per­son­nel also are to sharp­en a pilot sur­vival exer­cise with sea­soned sur­vival instruc­tors from both sides in a sim­u­lat­ed war sit­u­a­tion in which friend­ly pilots have been iso­lat­ed in the enemy’s area because their planes had been shot down or engine trou­ble.

To avoid the ene­my ships’ radar defense net­work, the Navy’s DDH2 or Type 3 destroy­er will be deployed to play a role of a sim­u­lat­ed ene­my ship.

This year’s Max Thun­der fea­tures an air refu­el­ing drill for the first time in the Max Thun­der his­to­ry dur­ing an air oper­a­tion.

In par­tic­u­lar, an air refu­el­ing instruc­tor pro­mo­tion drill was con­duct­ed at the same time the main air refu­el­ing drill, thus lead­ing five pilots to become aer­i­al refu­el­ing instruc­tors.

Through this exer­cise, the ROK Air Force showed that it intend­ed to hold ROK‑U.S strong com­bined air pow­er to imme­di­ate­ly counter any emer­gency on the Kore­an Penin­su­lar through con­tin­u­ous two Air Forces’ joint exer­cise.

■ What is the Max Thun­der exer­cise?

The Max Thun­der exer­cise is a bian­nu­al major joint air exer­cise designed to demon­strate inter­op­er­abil­i­ty between the ROK and U.S. Air Forces on the Kore­an Penin­su­la. The exer­cise has become larg­er and larg­er in its scale since it began in 2008. Max Thun­der is held in May and Sep­tem­ber every year.

The Max Thun­der exer­cise is based on the U.S.-led multi­na­tion­al air exer­cise Red Flag con­duct­ed at Nel­lis Air Force Base, Neva­da and Eiel­son Air Force Base, Alas­ka, USA.

Through­out this year’s exer­cise, the ROK and U.S. divide the par­tic­i­pants into two parts, the Blue Air team and the Red Air team, to exe­cute a real war-like war­fare. The Blue team com­prised per­son­nel and air­craft from the allies and the Red one from the Kore­an Air Force’s train­ing wing.

In the first half of the 12-day exer­cise peri­od, the allied forces engaged in exer­cis­es designed to sup­press the enemy’s air pow­er as the ene­my invad­ed the friend­ly forces’ air­space and to defend the friend­ly forces’ key tar­gets.

In the sec­ond half, com­mand­ing air supe­ri­or­i­ty in the enemy’s air­space and strik­ing the enemy’s ground tar­gets.

Min­istry of Nation­al Defense[MND], Repub­lic of Korea