The South Korean military is making rapid increases in its effectiveness, and the overall US military presence on the Korean Peninsula is likely to draw down to roughly 25,000 personnel in the coming years (down from 37,000 in 2003) —but the US Air Force remains committed to the defense of South Korea. Speaking in Orlando Thursday afternoon, PACAF commander Gen. Howie Chandler said USAF will continue to field a squadron of F-16s and a squadron of A-10s at Osan Air Base near Seoul, and two squadrons of F-16s at Kunsan Air Base further south on the peninsula. In fact, the F-16s at Kunsan were replaced earlier this year with more advanced Block 40 Vipers in a trade with Eielson AFB, Alaska. The trade gives the front-line Kunsan wing jets with significant avionics improvements, new data links, the ability to use the Joint Helmet Mounted Cuing System, and other combat enhancements.
Boeing’s receipt of the 10th lot contract award for the KC-46 Pegasus this week leaves just three lots left to complete the Air Force’s buy of the tanker, although a further buy of 75 additional aircraft as a “bridge” to the Next-Generation Aerial-refueling System (NGAS) seems increasingly likely.