US shows off new F-35 fighter jets ahead of US-South Korea drills

Roaring off the deck of a 40,000-ton amphibious assault ship, F-35B fighter jets piloted by US Marines soar over the ...

Posted: Mar 26, 2018 2:23 PM
Updated: Mar 26, 2018 2:23 PM

Roaring off the deck of a 40,000-ton amphibious assault ship, F-35B fighter jets piloted by US Marines soar over the Pacific Ocean near the Japanese island of Okinawa.

It's a show of force by the US military, which is demonstrating its newest -- and most expensive -- weaponry a week before it begins annual war games with South Korea.

The drills, which usually provoke fury from North Korea, will go ahead this year despite heightened sensitivity as diplomats try to organize a summit between the two Koreas, as well as an historic meeting between US President Donald Trump and the North Korean leader, Kim Jong Un.

The fifth-generation F-35B Lightning II jets -- warplanes equipped with stealth technology to avoid radar and detection -- have just started their first maritime deployment on board the USS Wasp, a warship sometimes dubbed a baby aircraft carrier that will take part in the joint exercises starting April 1.

The jets are seen as a major advantage for the United States in any contingencies involving North Korea as they are undetectable by Pyongyang's radar although US government data released in January raised questions as to whether they were ready for combat.

The F-35B is one of three variants of the F-35 aircraft and the only one with the ability to land vertically like a helicopter. It can also takeoff in a much shorter space than other fighter jets, which is why it can operate off the Wasp, a warship only half the size of the 100,000-ton aircraft carriers in the US fleet.

"It really is an historic deployment, bringing this capability of the F-35 and the USS Wasp together to create the most significant increase in our capability the Navy and Marine Corps team has seen in our lifetime," Rear Adm. Brad Cooper told CNN on board the Wasp.

Deficiencies?

With a projected price tag of a trillion dollars over the lifetime of the program, the F-35 fleet is the most expensive weapons system in history.

In a detailed report published in January by the Director, Operational Test and Evaluation (DOT&E), which reports to the Pentagon, experts found that as of October 2017, there were 263 high-priority performance deficiencies with the fleet.

Problems listed included flaws with the pilots' night vision and delays in the supply of replacement parts.

The report concludes that the operational sustainability of the F-35 fleet is "below service expectations" and the unresolved issues "would not be acceptable in combat situations."

Weapons acquisition expert Dan Grazier from the US nonprofit organization, Project on Government Oversight (POGO), says that any claims of the F-35's combat readiness are "provably false."

"They are just expensive prototypes," says Grazier, who last week published an analysis of the Pentagon data on the F-35. "They haven't even started the rigorous combat readiness testing which is a really important part of the program."

However, Adm. Cooper insists those issues have been resolved.

"These F-35s are combat ready. If we needed to use them in combat today, they're ready to go," he said.

"These deficiencies for these aircraft that we have deployed out here have all been resolved, they're full on and they're ready to execute combat missions if called upon."

F-35B pilot Capt. Robert Reddy, speaking in the hangar of the USS Wasp, said the new stealth is fighter is "very well thought out."

"It's a multi-role fighter. So its ability to fight air to air, air to ground and electronic warfare. It's really quite special. All in one aircraft, all piloted by one person."

The F-35 stealth fighters have been sold around the world to countries including the UK, Japan, and Israel.

South Korea has also ordered 40 F-35A stealth fighters, a move which has angered North Korea according to an article on state news agency KCNA published Sunday, which called it a "perilous move against the rare atmosphere of reconciliation."

Drills

The Wasp, equipped with F-35Bs, will take part in the military drills with South Korea, which will go ahead with the same "scope and scale" as previous years', Adm. Scott Swift, commander of the US Pacific Fleet, told CNN earlier this month.

But the two countries have made concessions towards the recent flurry of diplomacy, including delaying the drills until after the PyeongChang Winter Olympics and Paralympics in South Korea and shortening their duration.

The Foal Eagle and Key Resolve drills would begin on April 1 for four weeks, both countries said last week. Last year, Foal Eagle began on March 1 and continued until the end of April, lasting a total of two months.

The diplomatic developments of this year are a dramatic turnaround from the tense rhetoric and frequent North Korean missile launches which characterized 2017.

And although pursuing the path of diplomacy is the current course of action, out at sea, the US naval commanders are still preparing for any eventuality in case things don't go as planned.

"For our enemies, these new capabilities simply make us more lethal," Cooper says. "And we have the ability to bring a greater deal of lethality to the fight and ultimately win in combat."

Terre Haute
Few Clouds
63° wxIcon
Hi: 65° Lo: 40°
Feels Like: 63°
Robinson
Broken Clouds
57° wxIcon
Hi: 67° Lo: 37°
Feels Like: 57°
Indianapolis
Scattered Clouds
64° wxIcon
Hi: 61° Lo: 42°
Feels Like: 64°
Rockville
Scattered Clouds
61° wxIcon
Hi: 63° Lo: 39°
Feels Like: 61°
Casey
Broken Clouds
64° wxIcon
Hi: 65° Lo: 39°
Feels Like: 64°
Brazil
Few Clouds
63° wxIcon
Hi: 64° Lo: 39°
Feels Like: 63°
Marshall
Few Clouds
63° wxIcon
Hi: 65° Lo: 39°
Feels Like: 63°
Turning Cooler
WTHI Planner
WTHI Temps
WTHI Radar

WTHI Events

 

Illinois Coronavirus Cases

(Widget updates once daily at 7 p.m. CT)

Confirmed Cases: 295720

Reported Deaths: 8916
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Cook1454625225
DuPage17786563
Lake17151488
Will14239382
Kane13285326
St. Clair6747192
Winnebago6300151
Madison5828143
Champaign481821
McHenry4653118
Peoria355552
McLean332523
Rock Island307177
Kankakee277677
Unassigned2562244
Sangamon247945
Kendall205425
Tazewell180927
LaSalle175857
Macon163645
DeKalb162239
Coles150831
Williamson142649
Jackson127625
Clinton122221
Adams119910
Boone115323
Randolph95811
Effingham8833
Vermilion8304
Whiteside78421
Ogle7486
Knox7043
Monroe69016
Grundy6876
Henry6795
Morgan67423
Bureau67112
Jefferson64138
Marion5732
Macoupin5677
Christian56511
Franklin5523
Stephenson5486
Union52424
McDonough49015
Logan4691
Crawford4664
Fayette4376
Woodford4327
Livingston4086
Shelby4084
Cass40411
Jersey39817
Lee3941
Montgomery38913
Iroquois36819
Saline3624
Perry35815
Bond3426
Warren3342
Douglas3187
Wayne3005
Jo Daviess2752
Lawrence2633
Carroll2386
Greene23513
Hancock2283
Moultrie2224
Richland2206
Cumberland2195
Washington2191
Jasper21210
Fulton1900
Clark1833
Pulaski1831
White1760
Johnson1630
Wabash1623
Mason1611
Clay1590
Piatt1430
Mercer1415
Pike1391
De Witt1292
Menard1281
Massac1172
Edgar1168
Marshall1110
Ford1085
Alexander851
Scott800
Gallatin752
Hamilton742
Henderson710
Brown690
Edwards680
Putnam630
Calhoun620
Stark562
Schuyler500
Hardin390
Pope301
Out of IL30

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

(Widget updates once daily at 8 p.m. ET)

Confirmed Cases: 120019

Reported Deaths: 3632
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Marion21671768
Lake10772325
St. Joseph6763116
Elkhart6755112
Allen6411206
Hamilton4997110
Vanderburgh390632
Hendricks2789125
Monroe270837
Tippecanoe265213
Johnson2383126
Clark229357
Porter223347
Delaware204162
Cass19619
Vigo190628
Madison173575
LaPorte153241
Warrick142847
Floyd142064
Howard134164
Kosciusko130117
Bartholomew120357
Marshall102924
Dubois102119
Boone100346
Grant97237
Hancock95143
Noble93532
Henry83027
Wayne78115
Jackson77910
Morgan73940
Shelby68929
Daviess68429
Dearborn67928
LaGrange65111
Clinton64414
Harrison60124
Putnam59211
Gibson5606
Knox54410
Lawrence53029
Montgomery51222
DeKalb50111
White49114
Decatur46339
Miami4394
Greene43236
Fayette42314
Jasper4032
Steuben3997
Scott39611
Posey3712
Sullivan33912
Jennings31812
Clay3155
Franklin31525
Ripley3098
Whitley2956
Orange28924
Adams2833
Carroll28313
Wabash2758
Starke2747
Wells2734
Washington2702
Spencer2693
Huntington2543
Jefferson2543
Fulton2472
Tipton23323
Randolph2308
Perry22613
Jay1931
Pike1771
Newton17511
Owen1721
Martin1690
Rush1584
Vermillion1330
Fountain1302
Blackford1243
Pulaski1141
Crawford1110
Parke1112
Brown1023
Benton870
Ohio797
Union790
Switzerland680
Warren411
Unassigned0227