S. Korea, U.S. stage joint air drills with F-35 fighters

South Korea and the United States staged joint air drills with advanced F-35A fighter jets Friday, the Air Force said, amid joint efforts to strengthen deterrence against North Korean threats. The exercise took place over South Korea, involving the latest-generation stealth fighters from both sides, as well as South Korean KF-16, F-15K and other aircraft, with a focus on enhancing joint operational capabilities, according to the Air Force. During the exercise, the F-35As formed a joint team to train on defensive counter air maneuvers, such as intercepting simulated enemy aircraft and cruise missiles, it said. The U.S. fighter jets arrived at Osan Air Base in Pyeongtaek, 60 kilometers south of Seoul, on Wednesday from Kadena Air Base in Okinawa, Japan to join the exercise. U.S. Air Force units stationed in South Korea do not operate F-35s. The joint exercise took place in the wake of Pyongyang's continued saber-rattling this year, recently highlighted by its firing of multiple cruise missiles on Feb. 14, in its fifth such missile launch this year.