The United States military showed North Korean leader Kim Jong-un its new fighter jet this week, when four F-35 Joint Strike Fighters conducted a training flight over the peninsula, loaded with live bombs and missiles, CNN reports.
The F-35 is considered the most advanced aircraft along with the F-22 Raptor, but the United States is planning to enhance both fighter jets, making them even more combat-compatible.
The F-22 and F-35 have long been touted as the future of U.S. aerial dominance — the expectation being that the Raptors’s air-to-air combat capabilities will work in concert with the multi-role F-35’s advanced long-range sensors to maintain an advantage over emerging competition from foreign rivals like China and Russia. Both jets have been included in training flights over North Korea recently, in spite of continuous efforts to upgrade their combat features.
Cloaked with the world’s most advanced stealth coating, the F-22 and F-35 would likely be called upon to lead a potential air campaign against North Korea should the situation escalate to the point of using military force.
While the North Korean military maintains capable anti-air weaponry, their radar systems would be unable to detect the stealth fighters before a strike on those defensive systems.
While the F-22 Raptor has been involved in combat missions since 2014, the Air Force is planning to equip the fifth-generation aircraft with new missiles, upgraded sensors and perform key maintenance on its special stealth coating.
Scout Warrior was first to report the planned F-22 upgrades.
“The U.S. is planning to buy more than 2,300 F-35s and does not need all of them to be combat capable,” according to Joe Dellavedova, a spokesperson for the F-35 Joint Program Office.
“Each service will be able to decide whether they want all their planes to have the full capacity or if some can be used for training or other purposes,” he said, adding that the money saved could be used toward other initiatives.