Yesterday, North Korea scrambled some 180 jet aircraft along its border with South Korea prompting South Korea to sortie some 80 fighters of its own, including F-16s and F-35s in response.  This incident took place as the US and South Korea conducted joint training exercises during Vigilant Storm 23. The exercise was scheduled to run for five days beginning on Monday, November 1st, and ending on Friday. Vigilant Storm exercises are held to practice wartime missions to enhance the combat readiness of US and ROK forces and have been held for 23 years.

North Korea protests against these annual exercises as provocations and generally reacts with provocations of their own in response.  On this occasion, the North Korean move was to launch some 23 ballistic missiles from its Eastern and Western bases Wednesday into the ocean in a record number of launches for a single day.  In a report from South Korea’s Defense Ministry, one of the missiles landed in the water on the south side of the Northern Limit Line which is considered South Korea’s maritime border.

North Korea then followed up on Thursday with 6 more launches with one missile falling into the Eastern Sea of Japan so close to the Japanese mainland that take shelter warnings were issued to several civilian areas in Japan near the coast.

The South Korean response was to fire 3 surface to air missiles into the ocean and announce that Vigilant Storm would be extended.  The exercise involves some 100 US aircraft including fighters, bombers, and aerial refueling aircraft along with South Korean F-15s, F-16S, and their new F-35 Lightening II fighters which comprise 3 squadrons with another 20 aircraft being added next year. On the ground US and South Korean troops practice close air support operations, anti-aircraft procedures, search and rescue and base defense exercises.