South Korean and U.S. warplanes will simulate strikes on North Korea’s nuclear facilities in drills in Alaska next month, the Yonhap news agency quoted unidentified military officials as saying.
The maneuver will take part amid Exercise Red Flag, held at Eielson Air Force Base from Oct. 3-21.
“The drill will be held with the scenario of a sudden missile attack from North Korea,” Yonhap quoted an official as saying.
South Korean F-15K strike fighter jets will mimic attacking the North’s Nyongbyon nuclear facility with GBU-31 guided bunker-buster bombs, the official added.
That munition is designed to penetrate deep into buildings or fortified shelters before exploding.
Red Flag exercises are held several times a year between the U.S. and its allies. They are designed to sharpen interoperability, or the ability of pilots to work with one another across potential language barriers and differing levels of experience.
The drills customarily take place within the Joint Pacific Alaska Range Complex, “the largest instrumented air, ground and electronic combat training range in the world,” according to the U.S. military. It has more than 67,000 sq. miles (173,500 sq. km) of airspace, including three bombing ranges with hundreds of different targets and 45 threat simulators, both manned and unmanned.
The allies are under pressure to show preparedness to intervene in North Korea after it conducted its fifth and largest-ever nuclear test this month. Pyongyang shrugged off United Nations sanctions imposed after a test in January and has apparently continued its nuclear and missile work unabated.
However, it is unclear whether bombing the nuclear plant at Nyongbyon is a likely scenario, given the potential for radioactive contamination across the Korean Peninsula.
Yonhap quoted the official as saying “other core military facilities” would also be targeted in the drills.
It said South Korea would send to Alaska six F-15K fighter jets and two C-130 transport aircraft for the drills.
News of the joint exercise comes after reports emerged of a South Korean plan to “annihilate” Pyongyang in a massive bombing campaign if the North shows signs of a nuclear attack.
The plan, known as “Korea Massive Punishment & Retaliation” (KMPR), was revealed earlier this month. Similar to reported “decapitation strikes” on the North Korean leadership, the KMPR plan would also target the hermit nation’s upper echelons, including leader Kim Jong Un.