Pacific commander of US Marines says it deployed 14 aircraft to S. Korea for joint exercises

Posted on : 2019-04-02 16:55 KST Modified on : 2019-04-02 16:55 KST
Joint S. Korea-US marine drills suspended after Singapore summit expected to continue this year
Commandant of the US Marine Corps Robert Neller with Lieutenant General Jun Jin-goo
Commandant of the US Marine Corps Robert Neller with Lieutenant General Jun Jin-goo

Lieutenant General Lewis Craparotta, commander of US Marine Corps Forces Pacific, disclosed that 14 US aircraft had been deployed from Hawaii to South Korea for exercises last month with the South Korean marines, or the ROK Marine Corps. Craparotta made this announcement in a document titled “Role of the Marines in Strengthening the ROK-US Alliance” that was released on Apr. 1, prior to an international symposium on the 70th anniversary of the establishment of the ROK Marine Corps, which is part of a national defense convention being held in Seoul’s Yongsan District on Apr. 2.

Craparotta said that US marines’ “readiness improves every time they come to train” with the South Korean marines and navy. According to the lieutenant general, four MV-22 Ospreys, four CH-53 helicopters, four new Cobra helicopters and two new UH-1H Huey helicopters were deployed from Hawaii to South Korea last month.

“For the Hawaii marines, this was a great opportunity to train with Korean marines and special operations forces,” Craparotta said, stressing that training with the South Korean troops had improved the US marines’ combat readiness.

Craparotta was referring to the ROK-US Korea Marine Exercise Program (KMEP), large-scale drills that were delayed after the North Korea-US summit in Singapore on June 12, 2018, and then resumed the following November. Though this program was supposed to consist of 19 rounds last year, only 11 of those actually took place. This year, all 24 rounds of the program are scheduled to proceed.

According to Craparotta, KMEP includes a variety of training tasks that provide South Korean and US marines with a valuable opportunity to master challenging aspects of actual amphibious operations.

The US Pacific marine commander also observed that the ROKS Dokdo and the ROKS Marado, large amphibious attack vessels in the South Korean navy categorized as “landing platform helicopters,” (LPH) had been designed to carry the Marineon helicopters and suggested that US F-35B stealth fighters could also land on these ships during future training operations. If the ROK and US Marines continue to develop their ability to train and operate together, Craparotta said, there’s no reason why US Marine Corps F-35B fighters couldn’t land on those ships in the future.

Craparotta said that the US was encouraging South Korea to keep participating in upcoming amphibious exercises in the Philippines and that the US Marines wanted South Korea to be its partner in the Philippines to ensure the success of those multinational exercises. He also said that South Korean landing forces were always welcome to participate in the RIMPAC (Rim of the Pacific) exercises, which are organized on odd-numbered years by the US Pacific Fleet, and that the US Marine invited the ROK Marines to participate in Exercise Talisman Saber, a joint exercise between the US and Australia that’s held on even-numbered years.

In order to overcome the difficulties of gaining permission to train with foreign armies in other countries, Craparotta added, the US was working to set up training grounds on Guam and in the Northern Mariana Islands and that the US Marine looks forward to training with the ROK Marine in those locations.

By Yoo Kang-moon, senior staff writer

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