South Korea is planning to showcase F-35A stealth fighters to the public for the first time during the Armed Forces Day ceremony next month to officially mark their introduction into the country, officials said Tuesday.
South Korea has so far brought in eight F-35As, beginning with two in late March, under a plan to deploy a total of 40 fifth-generation jets through 2021. But the military has handled their arrivals in a low-key manner, sparking speculation the government is concerned about objections from North Korea.
Officials said that the Armed Forces Day ceremony, to be held on Oct. 1, will take place at the Air Force's 11th Fighter Wing base in the southeastern city of Daegu, and F-35s could be mobilized for the ceremony that would include ceremonial flyby and the display of key military assets.
Other assets, such as F-15K jets and E-737 Peace Eye airborne early warning and control aircraft, could also be mobilized "to show the people the strength of our armed forces capable of instantly responding to any threats from all directions," the ministry said in a release.
"We will finalize the list of the weapons to be displayed during the event in a way to minimize possible impact on our readiness posture," an official said.
It will be the first time that an Armed Forces Day ceremony is held at an air combat command. Officials said it is to better mark the 70th anniversary of the foundation of the Air Force that falls on the same day.
As a centerpiece of the country's strategic targeting scheme against potential enemy forces, the warplane is expected to boost operational capabilities and strengthen the readiness posture against threats from all directions, according to Air Force officers.
The fighters can fly at a top speed of Mach 1.8 and carry top-of-the-line weapons systems, such as joint direct attack munitions.
The date of their full operational deployment is not known, as it is classified information.
North Korea has intensified its criticism against South Korea for the introduction of advanced weaponry, including F-35As, claiming that such a military buildup is aimed at destroying North Korea and threatens peace on the Korean Peninsula and in the region. (Yonhap)