Prepared for war: Max Thunder 12-2 kicks off at Kunsan
KUNSAN AIR BASE, Republic of Korea -- For more than 50 years now, the U.S. and Republic of Korea air forces have maintained a strong alliance with the goal to deter North Korean provocation.
Max Thunder 12-2, an exercise designed to prevent aggression by demonstrating our combat capabilities, kicked off at Kunsan Air Base Oct. 28. During the exercise, more than 400 American and Korean airmen will coordinate on all aspects of the mission, from planning to takeoff to debriefing.
"Strong airpower sends a signal," said Maj. Shaun Bellamy, 7th Air Force chief of weapons and training. "This is an unparalleled planning opportunity, and what we learn from it will only make us better."
Throughout the exercise, mission leaders will alternate between U.S. and ROK commanders. "Our leadership remains concerned about North Korean provocation," said Col. Jin Kwang Soo, ROKAF Air Force Operations Center exercise training division chief. "This exercise is a way to actualize our very strong alliance. We convey our deepest gratitude to the Wolf Pack for hosting this exercise."
Aircraft for Max Thunder were pulled from units both on and off the peninsula. Dozens of F-16 Fighting Falcons from the 8th Fighter Wing and 4th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron theater security package will fly alongside A-10C Thunderbolt IIs from Osan Air Base, Republic of Korea.
ROK aircraft include F-15K Slam Eagles, KF-16s, F-5B Freedom Fighters and HH-60 Pave Hawks.
"This exercise is an important step in our integration of forces as we remain prepared for war," said Col. James Sturgeon, 8th Operations Group commander. "Now is the time to develop sound tactics that are inherently safe. This exchange between professional aviators will help us learn the next step in tactical development."
One challenge that remains between the two air forces' alliance is the language barrier. This exercise will give Americans and Koreans alike a chance to work on different approaches to deploying aircraft while overcoming the communications challenges.
Although there have been eight prior Max Thunder exercises hosted at Kunsan AB, this one is the first to feature surface-to-air threats as well as combined combat search and rescue capabilities.