Beginning in January,the US has been staging a series of warnings to North Korea and other potential nuclear adversaries following North Korea's recent underground nuclear weapon detonation and long-range missile test flight-supposedly to launch a satellite,but believed by the US to have been an intercontinental ballistic missile test.In January,a US Air Force B-52H Stratofortress heavy bomber was flown on a deterrence mission over South Korea,escorted by 2 fighter jets.The B-52 can deliver a substantial number of nuclear-tipped cruise missiles and other precision strike nuclear and conventional payloads.*
This was followed on 17 February by a flight of 4 US Air Force F-22 Raptor advanced technology fighter jets that had been launched from Japan over South Korea,escorted by 4 South Korean F-15K Slam Eagles and 4 US Air Force F-16 Fighting Falcons.The aircraft landed at Osan Air Base near Seoul,South Korea,where there was a red carpet ceremony of unity between the US and South Korean Airmen.*
In February,there were 2 Minuteman III ICBM test launches in one week from Vandenberg Air Force Base,California.US Air Force Global Strike Command Airmen from the 91st Missile Wing,Minot Air Force Base,North Dakota and the 625th Strategic Operations Squadron,Offutt Air Force Base,Nebraska,launched an unarmed LGM-30G Minuteman III ICBM with a test re-entry vehicle from Vandenberg.Most significantly,the launch was controlled from a US Strategic Command Boeing E-4B Nightwatch flying command post,a designated national emergency aircraft.The missile flew about 4200 miles to Kwajalein Atoll in the Marshall Islands.
The flight test program demonstrates one part of the operational capability of the ICBM weapon system,said 576th FLTS commander Colonel Craig Ramsey.But perhaps most importantly,this visible message of national security serves to assure our partners and dissuade potential aggressors,COL Ramsey added.*
On 25 February,a second unarmed Minuteman was launched from Vandenberg by the more conventional ground control method.*
On 7 March,around 17,000 US troops and more than 300,000 South Korean forces began their annual spring exercise to practice defending against a North Korean attack.The drills will last through April and have been described as the largest ever in the series.*
North Korea is known to be developing the KN08 mobile ICBM that will threaten the entire US,and to already have one of them that is operational.*