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Defence News 24/10/2017
F-35 makes South Korean show debut

The Lockheed Martin F-35A Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) made its debut appearance at this year’s Seoul International Aerospace and Defence Exhibition (ADEX), giving South Korea a sneak-preview of its future fighter while providing a timely warning to Pyongyang on US regional capabilities and resolve.

A pair of US Air Force (USAF) aircraft from Hill Air Force Base (AFB) in Utah is taking part in both the static and flying displays at the event taking place from 17 to 22 October at Seoul Air Base in South Korea.

In September 2014 South Korea approved a deal to acquire 40 F-35As for about KRW7.3 trillion (USD6.5 billion) to satisfy the country's FX-III future fighter requirement. Contract negotiations have included Seoul’s securing of an agreement from the US government to obtain the technologies needed for its indigenous Korean Fighter Experiment (KFX) programme. Deliveries of the F-35A to the Republic of Korea Air Force (RoKAF) will start in 2018.

Aside from affording the RoKAF and advanced look at its future fighter, the appearance of the F-35A at ADEX coincides with perhaps the greatest period of tension between the United States and North Korea in decades. North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has refused to halt his nuclear ambitions for the country in the face of dire warnings from the administration of US President Donald Trump to do so, and has carried out a series of provocative ballistic missile test firings instead.

In response to these firings, the US military in the region has conducted a series of exercises and manoeuvres to re-assure nervous allies and to display resolve to North Korea. These have included the F-35 for the first time, with US Marine Corps F-35Bs based in Japan joining USAF Rockwell B-1B Lancer bombers and Japan Air Self-Defense Force F-2 fighters in joint sorties.

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