South Korea began operational deployment of F-35A fighter jets on Tuesday. File Photo courtesy of U.S. Air Force
Dec. 17 (UPI) -- South Korea strategically deployed newly acquired F-35A fighter jets for the first time on Tuesday, but the event was marked without fanfare and no photographs were issued, according to reports.
South Korea's air force has received a total of 13 F-35A stealth fighters in 2019 and is expected to receive a total of 40 aircraft by 2021, Yonhap reported.
On Tuesday the military observed the new deployment during a closed-door ceremony at Cheongju Air Base.
Seoul's decision to not hold a public event for the strategic deployment comes at a time of increased North Korea provocations. North Korea's propaganda service Uriminzokkiri recently warned the South after Seoul said the deployment of F-35A fighters was not a violation of a 2018 inter-Korea military agreement.
North Korea may have good reason to be wary of the stealth fighters. The aircraft can be equipped with AIM-9X Sidewinder air-to-air guided missiles and GBU-12 aerial laser-guided bombs.
Cho Se-young, a spokesman for South Korea's air force, said at a press conference the stealth capabilities for the fighter jets have been "well publicized," without elaborating the reason for not publicly commemorating the new defense deployment, local television network SBS reported Tuesday.
Since the initial acquisition, South Korea's air force has conducted nine months of flight training, firing drills and exercises involving ground personnel, according to the report.
By 2021, South Korea will be the third-biggest stealth fighting operation in Asia.
The air force is also expected to deploy one or two Global Hawks, the reconnaissance aircraft capable of monitoring the entire surface of North Korea, by the end of the year, according to Yonhap.
South Korea has agreed to purchase a total of four Global Hawks from the United States.
Last week South Korea's military released fictitious footage of the remotely piloted surveillance aircraft detecting activity in North Korea, where the regime is seen setting up an ICBM on a mobile launch pad.