The Vigilant Ace 18 exercise is a joint effort between America and South Korea to strengthen ties between the two forces – stealth fighters are part of the slew of planes taking part.

The US Pacific Command tweeted: “Combined US-ROK forces send 230 aircraft – including 5th-generation stealth fighters – to Exercise #VigilantAce, ensuring alliance airpower is ready to Fight Tonight if necessary to defend Korea.”

Colonel William D Betts added: “In the event, we need to help defend our 51 million Korean allies, I need to be sure the 51st Fighter Wing is synchronised with the Combined-Joint force.

“Vigilant Ace is an opportunity for us to do just that; focus on getting smarter, faster and more capable than we were yesterday while we generate combat airpower and strengthen the alliance.”

Mr Betts emphasised the drills are part of an effort to prepare for the “very real threat” on the Korean border.

He went on: “The threat here on the peninsula is very real, and countering that threat needs to be in the forefront of our minds.

“My biggest expectation for the Wing is to remove any ‘exercise’ mindset from the equation and maximise the realism of every response.

“We will ensure we have no regrets if we find ourselves executing contingency operations.”

The pictures released by the US Pacific Command show the scale of the drills and the military might that both Donald Trump and South Korean president Moon Jae-in have at their disposal.

The Nimitz Carrier Strike Group is also pictured – the ship has now returned to the US after 6 months at sea

The seriousness with which the operations are taking place demonstrates that the US and South Korea are more prepared for World War 3 than ever before.

The operations began less than a week after Pyongyang tested its most powerful missile yet.

The drills were planned ahead of the latest provocation from the hermit kingdom – quelling theories they were conducted in response to the recent test.

As the two nations carry out military operations, Japan has announced that it will conduct evacuation drills simulating a nuclear strike from despot leader Kim Jong-un.

The country’s Sankei Shimbun newspaper revealed that the exercises will take place between January and March to prepare for a potential attack on Tokyo.

It is the first time that a major Japanese city will have carried out responses to a simulated attack.

Towns in the hermit kingdom’s firing line have in recent months conducted similar drills, with residents instructed to seek shelter in response to sirens warning of an imminent missile strike.

Until now, the Japanese government has resisted calls for major cities to carry out similar exercises on the grounds that they would alarm the public.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has called on local governments to identify underground facilities or buildings that could withstand a missile attack and to designate those facilities as shelters.


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