Bad weather and a temporary runway closure forced the Air Force to move U.S. fighter jets and Warthogs to a South Korean base Thursday during joint war games that have raised tensions with North Korea.
F-16 and A-10 aircraft were being relocated from Osan Air Base to the South Korean base at Gwangju “due to adverse weather conditions,” while the F-35s and F-16s were moved to Gwangju due to a runway problem at Kunsan, the 7th Air Force public affairs office said in an email.
The war planes are participating in the annual military exercise known as Vigilant Ace, but the Air Force said flying operations weren’t disrupted by the move.
The runway at Kunsan was closed temporarily after an F-16C assigned to the 8th Fighter Wing “experienced a ground emergency affecting the integrity of its landing gear” while taxiing, Capt. Chris Mesnard, a spokesman for the fighter wing, said separately.
“As a safety precaution the aircraft was stopped immediately to assess the situation and avoid any damage to the aircraft and runway – resulting in the temporary closure of our runway. Once the aircraft was removed, normal flying operations resumed,” he said.
Mesnard stressed the incident “in no way impacted our real-world readiness to launch and receive combat aircraft.”
The announcement came after Fox News reported that two B-1B supersonic bombers were supposed to fly over South Korea on Wednesday in a show of force against the North, but only one made the trip after the other reported a maintenance issue while taxiing to the runway.
Pacific Air Forces didn’t immediately reply to a request for comment on the report.
In another glitch, an F-22 Raptor had to be towed after landing on the runway at Gwangju, 170 miles south of Seoul, as the drills began on Monday, but the Air Force said an inspection later found no problems with the aircraft.
More than 200 aircraft and 12,000 U.S. personnel, along with South Korean airmen, are participating in the drills, which were scheduled to be held on eight U.S. and South Korean military installations.
Pyongyang has denounced the exercise as it usually does, warning the joint drills are pushing the two sides to the brink of a nuclear war.
Some 28,500 U.S. servicemembers are based on the divided peninsula as the two Koreas remain technically at war after their 1950-53 conflict ended in an armistice instead of a peace treaty.
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