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South Korean armor and artillery pieces prepare to fire at Nightmare Range on Friday. U.S. Apache helicopters and A-10 Warthog attack jets joined with South Korean air and ground forces during a celebration of the South Korean military's 60th anniversary.

South Korean armor and artillery pieces prepare to fire at Nightmare Range on Friday. U.S. Apache helicopters and A-10 Warthog attack jets joined with South Korean air and ground forces during a celebration of the South Korean military's 60th anniversary. (Erik Slavin / S&S)

South Korean armor and artillery pieces prepare to fire at Nightmare Range on Friday. U.S. Apache helicopters and A-10 Warthog attack jets joined with South Korean air and ground forces during a celebration of the South Korean military's 60th anniversary.

South Korean armor and artillery pieces prepare to fire at Nightmare Range on Friday. U.S. Apache helicopters and A-10 Warthog attack jets joined with South Korean air and ground forces during a celebration of the South Korean military's 60th anniversary. (Erik Slavin / S&S)

Rockets and bombs launched by South Korean artillery and aircraft make their way to their targets at Nightmare Range on Friday.

Rockets and bombs launched by South Korean artillery and aircraft make their way to their targets at Nightmare Range on Friday. (Erik Slavin / S&S)

An Apache helicopter from the 2nd Infantry Division's 4th Battalion, 2nd Aviation Regiment fires high-explosive rockets at Nightmare Range.

An Apache helicopter from the 2nd Infantry Division's 4th Battalion, 2nd Aviation Regiment fires high-explosive rockets at Nightmare Range. (Erik Slavin / S&S)

South Korean President Lee Myung-bak, center, waves to an enthusiastic crowd Friday following a joint U.S. and South Korean display of firepower at Nightmare Range.

South Korean President Lee Myung-bak, center, waves to an enthusiastic crowd Friday following a joint U.S. and South Korean display of firepower at Nightmare Range. (Erik Slavin / S&S)

South Korean aircraft tracers plummet to earth during a high-explosive joint military demonstration at Nightmare Range.

South Korean aircraft tracers plummet to earth during a high-explosive joint military demonstration at Nightmare Range. (Erik Slavin / S&S)

NIGHTMARE RANGE, South Korea — South Korean President Lee Myung-bak and about 1,000 guests heard the earth groan under the weight of thunderous firepower on a remote border of northern Gyeonggi and Gangwon provinces Friday.

Supported by U.S. Army helicopters and U.S. Air Force attack planes, the South Korean military celebrated its 60th anniversary with a display of armor, artillery and airborne infantry muscle designed to send a message to its neighbors to the north.

"The genuine purpose of our military buildup is not to start and win a war, but to deter a war," Lee said, according to Yonhap News. "Strong armed forces [in South Korea] will surely deter a war. But if we’re weak, a war will be inevitable."

The joint demonstration comes as South Korea nears to the planned 2012 takeover of wartime operational command of its forces. Currently, South Korean troops during war would be under the command of U.S. Forces Korea.

"What I saw here was magnificent," USFK commander Gen. Walter Sharp said. "They are definitely ready for OPCON transfer in 2012."

The demonstration started with attacks from South Korean F-15K and KF-16 fighter jets. Seven types of armor and artillery were used, including K1A1 tanks and Multiple Launch Rocket Systems, both of which have comparable U.S. counterparts.

The U.S. Air Force’s A-10 Warthog close-range attack jets and two U.S. Army AH-64D Apache helicopters left their own sizable pockmarks.

An Apache crewed by Chief Warrant Officer 4 Doug Golden and Chief Warrant Officer 2 Dan Layman fired 19 high-explosive rockets at once; the other, crewed by Capt. Ashley Lee and Chief Warrant Officer 2 David Lewis, fired 30 single shots. Then they let rip with 220 30 mm rounds.

The ground-shaking, high-explosive rounds are rarely used during training events in South Korea.

"I’ve watched it five or six times, and every time I’m amazed," said Lt. Col. Kevin Berry, commander of the 2nd Infantry Division’s 4th Battalion, 2nd Aviation Regiment.

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