(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Franklin R. Ramos/Released) U.S. Air Force F-16 Fighting Falcon fighter aircraft, assigned to the 36th Fighter Squadron, conduct an elephant walk on a taxiway during Exercise VIGILANT ACE 18 at Osan Air Base, Republic of Korea, Dec. 3, 2017.
Breaking down the numbers: a massive force totaling 230 aircraft is participating in the US -led drills with South Korean allies at Osan Air Base to focus on interoperability, security and combat airpower, the Air Force said.
Jobe said that North Korea's repeated missile firings-the latest last Wednesday, after a two-month lull-have caused the Air Force to step up the frequency and complexity of aerial exercises "to make sure we are ready and prepared to respond to any sort of additional testing that the Kim regime does". Recently, US President Donald Trump has doubled down on his harsh stance toward North Korea.
The drills involve 12,000 USA servicemembers along with South Korean airmen and more than 230 warplanes, including for the first time the Raptors, six F-35A Lightning IIs and 12 F-35Bs.
Just as this is not the first time North Korea has threatened retaliation for military exercises, it's not unique for America to deploy sophisticated aircraft amid North Korean belligerence.
North Korea regularly cites military drills around the peninsula as justification for its nuclear and missile-testing program.
On the eve of the exercise, the state-run Korean Central News Agency said Pyongyang will "seriously consider" countermeasures against the drills and warned that Washington and Seoul will "pay dearly for the provocations".
But earlier, the North Korean state media said the drill pushes the Korean Peninsula "to the brink of nuclear war".
US and South Korean officials insisted the drills are defensive in nature.