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Air Force: Inspection showed no problem with Raptor that was towed in S. Korea

By KIM GAMEL | STARS AND STRIPES Published: December 5, 2017

SEOUL, South Korea — A state-of-the-art U.S. stealth fighter jet was towed to a hangar during joint war games as a precaution, but an inspection determined nothing was wrong, the 7th Air Force said Tuesday.

The F-22 Raptor stopped after touching down at about 8 a.m. Monday at a South Korean base in Gwangju, 170 miles south of Seoul, and had to be towed, a South Korean official said.

Three other Raptors that landed at about the same time taxied by themselves as usual, according to the Yonhap News Agency, which published photos of the F-22 being towed.

“It was just a precaution. Maintenance looked at the jet and nothing was wrong,” Lt. Col. Jennifer Lovett, an Air Force spokeswoman, said in an email without elaborating.

Six Raptors are participating for the first time in the five-day annual training exercise known as Vigilant Ace, which began Monday amid rising tensions with North Korea over its nuclear weapons program.

The drills involve 12,000 U.S. 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. The B variant is the short-takeoff, vertical-landing version of the stealth aircraft.

South Korean media also reported that B-1B bombers would join the drills, but Lovett denied that. “No B1 bombers are participating in this exercise,” she wrote.

North Korea, which is always infuriated by joint military exercises, has condemned Vigilant Ace, saying it would push the divided peninsula “to the brink of nuclear war.”

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.”

U.S. and South Korean officials insisted the drills are defensive in nature.

“This realistic air combat exercise is designed to enhance interoperability between U.S. and [South Korean] forces and increase the combat effectiveness of both nations,” 7th Air Force said in a statement. “It is not in response to any incident or provocation.”

North Korea launched an intercontinental ballistic missile on Wednesday that officials and experts said had the potential to reach Washington, D.C., although it reportedly broke up before re-entering Earth’s atmosphere.

The United States maintains 28,500 troops in South Korea, which remains technically at war with the North after their 1950-53 conflict ended in an armistice instead of a peace treaty.

gamel.kim@stripes.com
Twitter: @kimgamel

 

An F-22 Raptor from Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska, takes off from Gwangju Air Base, South Korea, Monday, Dec. 4, 2017.
JESSICA SMITH/U.S. AIR FORCE PHOTO

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