SEOUL --- The Air Force has begun test-flights of two F-35A stealth fighter jets before their possible development within months, officials said Friday.
In March, the two fifth-generation fighters, manufactured by the U.S. defense firm Lockheed Martin, arrived at the 17th Fighter Wing in Cheongju, 140 kilometers south of Seoul, from Arizona.
They were the first to arrive in South Korea under Seoul's plan to bring in 40 F-35As for deployment through 2021. Eight more are scheduled to arrive in South Korea by the end of this year.
"We began their flight training exercises in mid-April as scheduled, though the date for their full operational deployment has yet to be decided," an Air Force officer told reporters.
Another officer said the deployment would come in months.
As a centerpiece of the country's strategic targeting scheme against potential enemy forces, the fifth-generation warplane is expected to boost the Air Force's operational capabilities and strengthen its readiness posture against threats from all directions, according to Seoul officers.
It can fly at a top speed of Mach 1.8 and carry top-of-the-line weapons systems, such as Joint Direct Attack Munitions.