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In Flight with the Korean Air Force

Posted December. 30, 2006 07:17,   


A snow-covered Seorak-san looked covered with blood vessels from 7,000 feet above sea level. The optical illusion was made by different shades of snowy and snow-less terrain.

The artery of the Baekdu-daegan narrows into the capillaries of Seorak-san and Sobaek-san, from which fresh blood is carried to mountains and rivers. Brown lines of earth between ran through mountains with the thudding beats of pulses.

“Clear for a take-off!”

Right after the approval message from a control center, a 29,000 lb. turbofan engine started up with a roaring sound. My heart was beating fast and my hands were sweating all over.

In seconds, the heavy body of the KF-16 fighter I was on took off like it was springing up from the earth. I was thrown back by tremendous accelerating force.

When I came to, the fighter was flying above fluffy clouds, 15,000 ft. up from the earth. The sky was calm and icy blue.

On the afternoon of December 22, I joined KF-16 fighter pilots on their patrol flight to Chungcheong and East Sea areas, including 159 Flight Battalion commander Byun Cheol-gu, 44, this year’s “top gun” Major Kim Jae-min, 34, and veteran pilots such as Major Jeon Sang-gook, 36, and Captain Oh Chung-won.

“Move to the mission area.”

I heard Major Jeon’s message through my headphones while I was carried away by the spectacle outside. We flew down through clouds to 7,000 ft. and arrived at the area above Uljin-gun, Gyeongsang North Province, in ten minutes at 800km per hour. The endless stretch of the East Sea’s blue coastline was seen on the left side of the fighter.

When I looked down while we turned north to Gangneung, the East Sea was all sparkling silver as the sun was reflected on the waves.

I was reminded of a series of news stories threatening our beautiful fields and waters: North Korea’s missile and nuclear tests, moves to regain wartime military control from the U.S., and dismantling the ROK-U.S. Combined Forces Command.

“We’ll start the TI (Tactical Intercept) operation.”

The fighters were flying in a training formation as two fighters came to fly within 30m from our fighter.

TI is an operation for shooting down enemy fighters with air-to-air missiles in close and distant range air battles. In a close range flight at 1,500km per hour, a pilot endures the acceleration of gravity (G) maximum 9 times heavier than one’s weight. Common people faint in seconds when the acceleration of gravity passes 6G.

Out of breath with my teeth clenched, I was about to faint when the fighters finally turned back to head toward the base.

Sweating all over, I was moved when pilots hugged me with encouraging remarks, thinking that these men, who fly over the country with a firm sense of responsibility, are protecting us.