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‘N.K. leadership an easy target for precision air strikes’

The 2003 war in Iraq has clearly revealed the abilities of the U.S. military to mount precision attacks on key enemy leadership targets. Similar operations may be applied should war break out on the Korean Peninsula, analysts here say.

With tensions being ratcheted up in the wake of the March 26 sinking of the Navy corvette Cheonan, attention has been drawn to how South Korea-U.S. combined forces would carry out their operations to bring down the hostile forces in the event of war.

Some officials here said that it would take only a matter of hours to find the location of North Korean leader Kim Jong-il and his inner circle, and launch the precision attacks on them.

“Intelligence officials here have been keeping close tabs on the movements of the North Korean leader day and night. It would take only a matter of hours to find his whereabouts and attack his hideouts,” said a military official on condition of anonymity.

“After his location is verified, the military would make a stealthy nighttime infiltration and launch precision attacks. If he is located underground, a raft of bomb attacks will be made.”

The South, equipped with cutting-edge military assets overwhelmingly outweighs its communist neighbor, particularly in terms of its Air Force capabilities.

Currently, South Korea’s Air Force has some 160 F-16 fighter jets and 39 F-15K jets. It plans to purchase 21 more F-15K jets by 2012. The F-15K jet, which costs about $100 million per unit, can carry high-tech precision weapons such as stand-off land attack missiles, laser guided bombs and joint direct attack munitions.

The high-performance weaponry such as the LGB and JDAM are guided to their targets with the aid of the Global Positioning System and the Inertial Navigation System. The INS is a computer navigation system that provides the position, orientation and velocity of a moving object.

The North is known to have a number of fighter jets. However, most of them are outdated, and it does not have any aircraft with combat capabilities equivalent to those of F-15-class fighter jets.

In addition to F-16 and F-15E jets, the U.S. Air Force has F-22 fighter jets. The top-of-the-line air superiority fighter, which costs about $150 million per unit, uses stealth technology and is virtually undetectable by enemy radar.

It has recently announced its plan to deploy a dozen U.S. F-22 jets to Kadena Air Base in Japan and another dozen to Andersen Air Force Base in Guam. Both bases are within relatively easy striking distance of North Korea, sparking speculation that the deployment is intended to mainly deal with potential North Korean provocations.

In case of an all-out war, the South Korean and U.S Air Forces would first disrupt North Korea’s communications and radar signals by utilizing aircraft designed for electronic warfare such as EC-130s and EA-6Bs, officials here said.

Then, they would use high-speed anti-radiation missiles to destroy radar facilities in the North. After that, they would use F-22, F-15K and F-16 fighter jets to attack key North Korean military facilities such as its command control centers, long-range artillery systems, troop assembly areas and surface-to-air missile bases.

By Song Sang-ho  (sshluck@heraldcorp.com)
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