Fully Loaded F-16 Fighting Falcon Protects the Sky Over South Korea

In July 1953, one of the bloodiest conflicts to follow the Second World War ended, with North and South Korea signing an armistice. From a legal standpoint, the Korean War is still ongoing, as no peace treaty was ever signed, effectively making it the longest-running war in the history of mankind.
F-16 Fighting Falcon flying over South Korea 29 photos
Photo: USAF/Staff Sgt. Skyler Combs
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What’s more worrying is that, in the absence of a peace treaty (for what it’s worth, the two countries agreed in 2018 to work toward such a solution), fighting can break out at any moment. Especially when there’s no telling what goes on in the head of the leader up North.

But, unlike what happened in June 1950, North Korea is in no position to launch another surprise attack on its southern neighbor. Or, better yet, the South is much better positioned, military speaking, to survive such an attempt.

That’s not in small part due to the presence of American forces in the country. After fighting alongside the Koreans back in the 1950s, Americans stayed there as a sort of security guarantee, and their presence has greatly solidified since.

At the time of writing, the U.S. has some 28,500 soldiers on the ground in South Korea. They are part of something called United States Forces Korea (USFK), and work for five separate military groups: the Eight Army, Seventh Air Force, CNFK (U.S. Navy), MARFOR-K (advisers), and SOCKOR (command tasked with special operations).

All these forces operate from five military installations, namely USAG Humphreys, Osan Air Base, USAG Yongsan, USAG Deagu, and Kunsan Air Base.

One of the military units based at Osan is the 36th Fighter Squadron, one of the units that have been on the front lines of the Korean War since day one all those decades ago. Established in 1917, it flew Curtiss P-36 Hawks during the Second World War, P-51 Mustangs after the conflagration ended, and Lockheed F-80 Shooting Stars over Korea. Now, the unit flies F-16 Fighting Falcons in what it calls air superiority missions.

We see one of these current planes in the main photo of this piece, during what the U.S. Air Force (USAF) calls a close air support mission. The photo is part of the first batch of USAF pics released this year, but shows the armed-to-the-teeth fighter plane as it flew a mission over South Korea’s Gyeonggi-do region, right at the border with the North, back in December 2022.

Although these outings are routine in the region, they come at a time when North Korea is once again trying to provoke its neighbors, and the plane makes no secret of the fact it has its allies’ back, flaunting its weapons for everyone to see.

Almost all of the plane’s hard points seem to be loaded, either with drop tanks or with an assortment of missiles and bombs, and there even might be electronic countermeasure pods mounted in there.

As the year grows older, we expect to see more of America’s Korean assets in action, so stay tuned for the most amazing of them all here, in autoevolution Photo of the Day feature.
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Editor's note: Gallery shows various F-16s.

About the author: Daniel Patrascu
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Daniel loves writing (or so he claims), and he uses this skill to offer readers a "behind the scenes" look at the automotive industry. He also enjoys talking about space exploration and robots, because in his view the only way forward for humanity is away from this planet, in metal bodies.
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