The United States is set to send four F-22 stealth fighter jets to South Korea Wednesday, Yonhap News Agency reported Tuesday, citing defense officials in South Korea. The move comes as part of Washington’s show of force in response to Pyongyang’s launch of a satellite earlier this month that drew international censure.
“The U.S. military plans to deploy four F-22s to the Korean Peninsula tomorrow (Wednesday),” a defense official said, according to South Korea's Yonhap.
The F-22 is reportedly a core strategic weapon for the U.S. and has been operational since 2005. However, the jets were seen in combat for the first time in attacks against the Islamic State group in Syria in 2014, CNN reported in August. The jets can attack not only other aircraft but can also be configured to bomb targets. The stealth function on the jets, which can carry nuclear missiles and bombs, helps them from being detected by radar, China's Xinhua News Agency reported.
The U.S. Air force's fact sheet about the jet mentions that the F-22 Raptor is a “critical component of the Global Strike Task Force” and that it “cannot be matched by any known or projected fighter aircraft.” Each of the one-seater jet’s unit costs $143 million, it said.
Its operational range is over 1,300 miles and a jet deployed at the U.S. base in Japan’s Okinawa Prefecture can reach the Korean peninsula in two hours, Xinhua reported.
North Korea’s rocket launch is currently being considered by Western powers as a test of a banned missile technology. The launch also follows North Korea’s fourth nuclear test in January, where it said that it successfully tested a hydrogen bomb, a claim disputed by critics.
Four days after North Korea announced about its nuclear test, Washington sent a long-range B-52 bomber to South Korean airspace from the U.S. air base in Guam that can deliver nuclear bombs, Xinhua reported.
Following Pyongyang's rocket launch early in February, the U.S. also sent a nuclear-powered submarine for a joint exercise with South Korea, the latter’s navy said Monday.
“The exercises were designed to affirm the close cooperation between navies of the two countries in the face of North Korea’s submarine attack threats and strengthen their joint operation capabilities,” the South Korean navy said in a statement, according to the Korea Herald.