Osan AB, South Korea For 63 years the Korean peninsula has operated in a state of armistice—not war, not peace. That fact is not lost on airmen here as they work daily to bolster the relationship between the US and the Republic of Korea amid increasing tensions over North Korea’s recent nuclear test, aggress?ive ballistic missile development program, and its satellite launch earlier this year. “I was here in 2007 and the mentality was not what it is now. There is a heightened sense of alertness. The threat seems more real now,” said TSgt. Joshua Melching, a joint terminal attack controller with the 607th Air Support Operations Group here. Melching said the fact that he could be “called to the fight here overnight or in the next five minutes” is always on his mind.
Col. John Rice, director of ISR for the 7th Air Force, said the Korean peninsula is not the same as it was even five years ago. North Korean leader Kim Jong Un is significantly different from his father or grandfather. The “most notable” difference, said Rice, is “his continued development of weapons that would pose a more strategic threat off the peninsula.” Col. Rob Bortree, commander the 607th Air Operations Center, said one of the changes over the last five to 10 years is North Korea’s ability to directly threaten US territory. US and ROK forces also have changed. “We’ve become much more agile in our ability to posture capability and employ capability immediately,” said Rice, who noted that includes ISR and strike. ROKAF capabilities also have “exponentially increased,” he added, citing several foreign military sales in the works. For example, the US State Department signed off on a potential $2.5 billion deal last year to modernize 134 ROKAF KF-16s and South Korea also plans to procure RQ-4 Global Hawks.