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NEWS | Nov. 12, 2013

Exercise MAX THUNDER wraps up

By Tech. Sgt. Thomas J. Doscher 7th Air Force Public Affairs

Exercise Max Thunder, the bilateral aerial training exercise that trains U.S. and Republic of Korea Air Force pilots to work closer together against a hostile force, ended on Kunsan Air Base, Republic of Korea, Nov. 8.

The exercise is held twice a year, once on Gwangju Air Base hosted by the ROKAF and once on Kunsan AB hosted by the U.S. Air Force.

In total, 97 aircraft from the ROKAF, U.S. Air Force and U.S. Marine Corps flew 849 sorties simulating a broad array of air-to-air and air-to-ground missions while U.S. and ROK air defense artillery units, including two batteries from the 35th Air Defense Artillery Brigade, exercised their air defense mission.

New to this year's exercise was the U.S. Marine Corps' Marine Air Group 12, who flew F/A-18C Hornets to Kunsan AB from bases in Japan to participate. Maj. Kendall Spencer, Exercise Max Thunder U.S. Air Force Exercise Lead, said the Marines fit right in and provided a valuable perspective to the exercise.

"We had much more joint integration this year," Spencer said. "It was the best integration in a joint and combined fashion that we've had yet. We had Marines here and also U.S. and ROK air defense artillery units participating. We also supported a special operations course so we worked with several different components in Combined Forces Command."

ROKAF Col. Min-Oh Seo, ROKAF 38th Fighter Group commander, said the exercise is indicative of the strength of the ROK-U.S. Alliance.

"Max Thunder provided us the opportunity to experiment and enhance ROK-U.S. Air Forces' combined war-fighting capability and reception and support of augmented forces," he said. "As we utilize more of these opportunities, the combined Air Power is committed to be the strong deterrence force and will be the first to strike the heart of the enemy with precision in combat."

The 8th Fighter Wing at Kunsan AB hosted Max Thunder participants, who came from all over Korea and Japan to train together. Col. Timothy Sundvall, 8th Fighter Wing vice commander, said the U.S. and Korean militaries have come a long way in combined training.

"Sixty years ago when the United States fought alongside of the Republic of Korea, we had to learn how to fight together during battle," he said. "Exercises like this allow us to train like we are going to fight if the defense of the Republic of Korea should ever be necessary in the future. Max Thunder provided invaluable training and enhanced U.S. and ROK interoperability to ensure we are ready for any contingency."

Spencer said the exercise could not have happened without the total team effort of the 8th FW.

"The 8th Fighter Wing supported this exercise in a world class manner," Spencer said. "The men and women of the Wolf Pack did an outstanding job. It was seen by all the Air Force personnel and every Marine I talked to."

Exercise Max Thunder is part of a continuous exercise program to enhance interoperability between U.S. and ROK forces and is not tied to any real-world or specific threats. These exercises highlight the longstanding military partnership, commitment and enduring friendship between the two nations, help ensure peace and security on the Korean Peninsula and reaffirm the U.S. commitment to stability in Asia.

The next Max Thunder exercise will be held in the spring of 2014.