North Korea will be surrounded by nuclear-capable F-35s by the early 2020s

F 35bLockheed MartinAn F-35B begins its short takeoff from the USS America with an external weapons load.

While North Korea feverishly works to perfect intercontinental ballistic missile technology, the US and its allies are putting the finishing touches on the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter that will soon be patrolling the Pacific.

Japan and South Korea, the US’s principal allies the region, will both deploy over 100 F-35s by 2021, according to Aviation Week.

This follows the US choosing Japan as the site of its first-ever deployment of operational F-35Bs, which are particularly well-suited to combat in the Pacific region.

The F-35, with its stealth characteristics and ability to improve the performance of the legacy jets it flies with, presents technical challenges that even the world’s best air forces can’t yet overcome. Against North Korea’s rudimentary air force and air defences, the F-35 would dominate and lead South Korean, Japanese, and US legacy fighter jets to total air supremacy.

But the F-35 isn’t just an upgrade to conventional weapons systems. The F-35A Air Force variant will eventually deploy to the Pacific, as the Diplomat reports, and it’s slated to become a delivery system for tactical nuclear weapons.

The US has around 200 B-61 tactical nuclear weapons with adjustable yields from 3 to 150 kilotons stored in various locations around the world. In the later software blocks of F-35s, the Joint Strike Fighter will be equipped to deliver these weapons while being virtually undetectable to North Korean radar.

Some in the arms control community have warned against small-yield nuclear weapons like the B-61, as they feel smaller nuclear weapons may seem more usable, thereby opening up the possibility of nuclear war. But with the F-35’s advanced capabilities, nuclear weapons hardly represent the US’s only option.

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