There have been no “formal” talks between Seoul and Washington about removing one US F-16 fighter squadron from the Korean peninsula later this year, Stars and Stripes reported April 16. The newspaper was following up on a report from the previous day in the South Korean Chosun Ilbo newspaper. The latter claimed that the US government had informed South Korea during informal talks earlier this month that it would withdraw “one squadron of some 20 F-16 fighters” by the end of 2008. The Air Force currently maintains three F-16 squadrons in South Korea: the 35th Fighter Squadron and 80th F.S. of the 8th Fighter Wing at Kunsan AB, and the 36th F.S. of the 51st Fighter Wing at Osan AB. USAF also rotates additional F-16s on the Korean peninsula to bolster its presence in the Pacific. While the United States is gradually drawing back its forces on the peninsula from 37,000 in 2004 to 25,000 by the end of 2008 under an agreement with South Korea, reducing the F-16 presence is not part of the existing accord, according to both newspapers. Any changes to the bilateral agreement would be the subject of formal, government-to-government consultations and would be announced jointly at the proper time, US Forces Korea spokesman Col. Franklin Childress told Stars and Stripes.
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.