Airmen at Kunsan AB, South Korea, stepped up to full wartime footing, arming more than 20 F-16s in a massive force-generation exercise meant to show the United States’ commitment to its South Korean allies. Readied to the point of take-off, combat-loaded Vipers from Kunsan’s 8th Fighter Wing, joined by visiting F-16s from Air Force Reserve Command’s 419th Fighter Wing at Hill AFB, Utah, formed on the flight line (see Air Frame below) for the Dec. 2 drill. “What we’ve done today is essentially generated aircraft for combat exactly as we would do in war time,” said Col. Craig Leavitt, 8th Operations Group commander. During the so called “elephant walk,” the bomb-laden hoard paraded en-masse along Kunsan’s runway before returning to dispersal. “A lot of time, we only practice pieces,” explained Leavitt. “Today, we’ve essentially practiced every step . . . right up until take off,” building confidence in the wing’s response, he added. (Kunsan report by SrA. Jessica Hines)
U.S. Air Force F-35s and F-22s regularly deploy deep into the Pacific region from Alaska, Utah, and Hawaii. In the future, though, the head of U.S. Indo-Pacific Command would like to see the Air Force permanently station fifth-generation aircraft west of the international date line—closer to China.