South Korea received the first of its F-35A stealth fighter jets to scale up the country’s defense capabilities against threats from North Korea.
At a rollout ceremony Wednesday, South Korea and the United States unveiled the aircraft at the Lockheed Martin’s assembly line in Texas.
Seoul purchased forty of the fifth-generation warplanes in 2014, in a $7 billion deal.
The F-35A is South Korea’s first fighter jet capable of evading radar detection, and is expected to play a critical role in the country’s Kill Chain system. The Kill Chain program aims to launch pre-emptive strikes on North Korea upon detecting an imminent missile attack.
The warplane is capable of infiltrating North Korea’s elaborate air defense network to target missile launch sites and factories as well as Kim Jong Un’s residence, Chosun Ilbo reported.
With the maximum speed of Mach 1.8, and a flight range of 2,220 km, the jet can carry up to eight tons of missiles and precision guided bombs. It can also disturb radar signals from North Korea by collecting frequency information.
The F-35A jet will be used to train South Korean pilots and maintenance staff at Luke Air Force Base in Arizona before it is delivered to Cheongju Air Base in South Korea in the first half of 2019.
The rest of the jets will be delivered over the next three to four years, by 2021.