With each passing day, the United States has met North Korean bellicosity with the deployment of increasingly sophisticated aircraft to the East Asian peninsula. But with Sunday’s mobilization of F-22 stealth fighter jets, the U.S. military has quickly hit its ceiling of awe-inspiring next-generation aircraft. Let’s review:
1. B-52 Bombers
On March 18, the Pentagon announced the flight of nuclear-capable B-52 bombers in training missions above South Korea. The subsonic, jet-powered bombers may be from Eisenhower’s reign, but they’re still capable of launching nuclear-armed cruise missiles. In response, the North Korean army threatened to strike U.S. bases in Guam and Japan.
2. B-2 Bombers
Next came the B-2 Spirit bombers on March 28. The stealth bombers, capable of deploying both conventional and nuclear weapons, dropped munitions on a South Korean island and flew back to their home base in Missouri in one trip. Flying the B-2s was a pricey excursion (the planes alone cost $3 billion each), but it didn’t stop Pyongyang’s provocations. North Korea responded by vowing to nuke Los Angeles, Washington, and other U.S. cities.
On Sunday, the United States sent F-22 stealth fighter jets to join war games with South Korea. As the Aviationist noted, in the event of an actual invasion, the radar-evading F-22s would likely escort B-2 bombers “after the rain of cruise missiles that would wipe out most of North Korea’s air defenses.” But the DPRK kept on shouting its “sea of fire” rhetoric. It called for a “sacred war of justice.”
So what’s left? There’s the state-of-the-art F-35, but it’s not operational. There’s the futuristic-looking V-22 Osprey, but it’s not much of a strategic threat. There’s the expansive U.S. drone arsenal, but we’re already giving those to the South Koreans. It would appear that if U.S. muscle-flexing is to continue, military planners will have to come up with something more creative than dusting off the latest hangar trophies.
Kevin Baron is a national security reporter for Foreign Policy, covering defense and military issues in Washington. He is also vice president of the Pentagon Press Association. Baron previously was a national security staff writer for National Journal, covering the "business of war." Prior to that, Baron worked in the resident daily Pentagon press corps as a reporter/photographer for Stars and Stripes. For three years with Stripes, Baron covered the building and traveled overseas extensively with the secretary of defense and chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, covering official visits to Afghanistan and Iraq, the Middle East and Europe, China, Japan and South Korea, in more than a dozen countries. From 2004 to 2009, Baron was the Boston Globe Washington bureau's investigative projects reporter, covering defense, international affairs, lobbying and other issues. Before that, he muckraked at the Center for Public Integrity. Baron has reported on assignment from Asia, Africa, Australia, Europe, the Middle East and the South Pacific. He was won two Polk Awards, among other honors. He has a B.A. in international studies from the University of Richmond and M.A. in media and public affairs from George Washington University. Originally from Orlando, Fla., Baron has lived in the Washington area since 1998 and currently resides in Northern Virginia with his wife, three sons, and the family dog, The Edge.| The E-Ring |
Dan Lamothe is an award-winning military journalist and war correspondent. He has written for Marine Corps Times and the Military Times newspaper chain since 2008, traveling the world and writing extensively about the Afghanistan war both from Washington and the war zone. He also has reported from Norway, Spain, Germany, the Republic of Georgia and while underway with the U.S. Navy. Among his scoops, Lamothe reported exclusively in 2010 that the Marine Corps had recommended that Marine Cpl. Dakota Meyer receive the Medal of Honor. This year, he was part of a team of journalists that exposed senior Marine Corps leaders' questionable involvement in legal cases, and then covering it up. A Pentagon investigation is underway in those cases.| The Complex |