US B-1 Bombers, F-35 Fighters Fly to Korea in Show of Force
The bombers flew simulated strikes against North Korea's "core facilities", which probably means Kim Jong-un himself.
Today, warplanes from three nations flew a coordinated simulated combat mission designed to show solidarity in the face of the latest North Korean missile test. The flight involved heavy bombers flying from the Pacific island of Guam all the way to a bombing range on the Korean Peninsula, escorted by fighters from the United States, South Korea, and Japan.
Two U.S. Air Force B-1B bombers temporarily based at Guam flew north to South Korea, laden with satellite JDAM bombs. The bombers were escorted by Japan Air Self Defense Force F-15J Eagle air superiority fighters. U.S. Marine Corps F-35B Joint Strike Fighters based at Iwakuni, Japan joined up with the bombers mid-flight, and the aerial task force was accompanied by Republic of Korea F-15K Slam Eagle fighters for the last leg.
ogether, the two B-1Bs, four F-35Bs, and four F-15Ks flew to the Pil Sung ("Sure Victory") aerial bombing range in Gangwon province. Pil Sung is on the Eastern side of the Korean peninsula, just a short distance from the demilitarized zone that divides North and South. All ten aircraft dropped bombs at the range, which U.S. Pacific Command and the Republic of Korea Defense Ministry described as simulated strikes on North Korean "core facilities." The mission lasted a total of ten hours.
What kind of "core facilities" would the U.S. and South Korean warplanes bomb in a real war? The list would include a range of high-priority targets including air defense facilities, nuclear weapons storage depots, and whatever was the last know location of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un. A central goal of South Korea's "Kill Chain" strategy, designed to head off an imminent nuclear attack, is the assassination of Kim Jong-un before he can issue missile launch orders.
The airstrike was an unsubtle message to Kim Jong-un that, if war were imminent, he was Target Number One. The participation of South Korean and Japanese forces in the exercise also sends a message that all three governments implicitly agree on assassination as a way to head off nuclear attack. That's got to sting.
The U.S. government is technically prohibited from political assassinations by presidential executive order. That didn't stop the Bush Administration's airstrike on Dora Farms, Iraq. That strike by four F-117A stealth fighters was designed to kill Iraqi President Saddam Hussein and his sons Uday and Qusay, but the three weren't there when the bombs hit. Strikes against authoritarian leaders such as Saddam Hussein and Kim Jong-un, who concentrate military decision-making authority under themselves, are often justified as strikes on military targets and not assassinations.
Although B-1B bombers have flown several missions around the Korean peninsula designed to send a message to North Korea, today's mission represents a first for the F-35 fighter bomber.
Source: By Kyle Mizokami (nationalinterest.org) / RealClear Defense/AP - Aug 31, 2017
Photo:U.S. Air Force B-1B bombers with F-35As and JSDF F-15C Eagles (Photo by PACOM image)