The Buzz

5 Weapons the U.S. Air Force Will Need for the next Korean War

A second Korean conflict with require a multirole fighter capable of close air support and interdiction tasks. The nature of the North Korean air defense threat, largely comprised of outdated fighters and air defenses, means a fifth-generation fighter is useful but not essential to prosecuting the war in the air. A fourth-generation fighter capable of quickly switching from air-to-air to air-to-ground roles in the same mission, downing MiG-29s one moment and dropping bombs on hardened artillery sites the next is perfectly up to the task.

The workhorse fighter of a second Korean conflict will be the Fighting Falcon. Nearly one hundred USAF F-16s are based in South Korea and Japan, including two squadrons of “Wild Weasels” tasked with suppression of enemy air defenses (SEAD). Air Force F-16s will carry Sniper targeting pods paired with JDAMs and laser-guided bombs to deliver precision ordnance on ground targets, AGM-88 HARM anti-radiation missiles to target North Korean radars, and AIM-9X Sidewinder and AMRAAM missiles for air-to-air engagements.

RQ-4 Global Hawk

A key USAF requirement for Korean War II is a high altitude, long endurance drone capable of keeping watch on North Korean strategic assets, particularly its land-based missiles and missile submarines. A persistent Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance (ISR) capability will allow the United States to hunt down mobile missile systems stashed in valleys, hillsides, and built-up areas, handing off targeting information to other forces.

The RQ-4 Global Hawk is ideally suited to the role. Capable of flying for more than thirty-four hours, Global Hawk could fly from airfields as far away as Guam, spend half a day over North Korea, and go home again—freeing up tarmac space in closer air facilities. Global Hawk’s ability to conduct surveillance day or night is a major plus and its unblinking gaze will be invaluable in tracking enemy movements. Another less well known feature that will be important over North Korea: Global Hawk’s Battlefield Airborne Communications Node (BACN) will provide a secure communications link between troops on the ground and close air support aircraft.

Kyle Mizokami is a defense and national security writer based in San Francisco who has appeared in the Diplomat, Foreign Policy, War is Boring and the Daily Beast. In 2009 he cofounded the defense and security blog Japan Security Watch. You can follow him on Twitter: @KyleMizokami.

Image: U.S. Air Force

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