The F-35 could intercept a North Korean missile launch — but it could bring an all-out war

  • Preliminary tests and defense insiders indicate that the F-35 could use air-to-air missiles to intercept ballistic missiles like the ones being tested by North Korea.
  • The US's current missile defenses don't really work, and air-to-air intercept appears much more promising.
  • The Pentagon seems reluctant to institute new technologies, but the current crisis with North Korea may call for it.
  • But using the F-35 to shoot down a missile could be seen as an act of war by North Korea.


The F-35, the most expensive weapons system in the history of the world that boosters claim can do just about anything in aerial combat, has a new potential mission — shooting down intercontinental ballistic missiles.

Ballistic missiles, like the kind North Korea has been perfecting to drop nuclear weapons on the US, pose a huge threat to the US as they reenter the atmosphere at over a dozen times the speed of sound.

Currently, the US uses advanced radars and warheads without explosive charges to "hit-to-kill" incoming missiles. This method has been compared to hitting a bullet with a bullet, and has only really been successful against unsophisticated, short range targets, or test dummies.

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F-35, the most expensive weapons system in world history
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F-35, the most expensive weapons system in world history
JOINT BASE ANDREWS, MD - SEPTEMBER 15: U.S. President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump walk in front of a F-35 fighter jet as they arrive at an event September 15, 2017 at Joint Base Andrews in Maryland. President Trump attended the event to celebrate the 70th birthday of the U.S. Air Force. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
BEAUFORT, NC - MARCH 08: A crew member stands beside a F-35B Lightning II fifth generation multi role combat aircraft at Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort on March 8, 2016 in Beaufort, South Carolina. UK personnel from the Royal Navy and RAF are embedded with the US Marine Corps on the F-35 operational training programme, based in Beaufort, South Carolina. This includes pilots and engineers, with numbers of UK personnel starting to grow in the build to the reforming of 617 Squadron (the Dambusters) in summer 2018. The Dambusters will reform at Beaufort before returning to the UK, to be based at RAF Marham. (Photo by Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)
OGDEN, UT - MARCH 15: A F-35 fighter jet take-offs for a training mission at Hill Air Force Base on March 15, 2017 in Ogden, Utah. Hill is the first Air Force base to get combat ready F-35's. They currently have 17 that might be deployed in the fight against terrorism and ISIS in the near future. (Photo by George Frey/Getty Images)
An Israeli Air Force F-35 Lightning II fighter plane performs at an air show during the graduation of new cadet pilots at Hatzerim base in the Negev desert, near the southern Israeli city of Beer Sheva, on June 29, 2017. / AFP PHOTO / JACK GUEZ (Photo credit should read JACK GUEZ/AFP/Getty Images)
GANGWON-DO, SOUTH KOREA - AUGUST 31: In this handout image provide by South Korean Defense Ministry, U.S. marine's F-35B drop bombs during a training at the Taebaek Pilsung Firing Range on August 31, 2017 in Gangwon-do, South Korea. U.S. and South Korea also operated air-to-ground strike drill in response to North Korea's ballistic missile launch which flied over Northern Japan on August 29. (Photo by Handout/South Korean Defense Ministry via Getty Images)
PARIS, FRANCE - JUNE 23: Lockheed Martin F-35A Lightning II performs an aerial display over the Le Bourget Airport on the first public day of the 52nd International Paris Air Show on June 23, 2017, in Paris, France. (Photo by Yuriko Nakao/Getty Images)'n
PARIS, FRANCE - JUNE 23: Lockheed Martin F-35A Lightning II lands after an aerial display over the Le Bourget Airport on the first public day of the 52nd International Paris Air Show on June 23, 2017, in Paris, France. (Photo by Yuriko Nakao/Getty Images)'n
PARIS, FRANCE - JUNE 23: Lockheed Martin F-35A Lightning II performs an aerial display over the Le Bourget Airport on the first public day of the 52nd International Paris Air Show on June 23, 2017, in Paris, France. (Photo by Yuriko Nakao/Getty Images)'n
PARIS, FRANCE - JUNE 21, 2017: The U.S. Air Force's Lockheed Martin F-35A stealth fighter performs an aerial demonstration at the Le Bourget Airport during the 52nd International Paris Air Show on June 21, 2017, in Paris, France. (Photo by Yuriko Nakao/Getty Images)
US military personnel and ground staff escort a Lockheed Martin F-35 fighter jet towards the runway at the International Paris Air Show in Le Bourget outside Paris on June 21, 2017. / AFP PHOTO / CHRISTOPHE ARCHAMBAULT (Photo credit should read CHRISTOPHE ARCHAMBAULT/AFP/Getty Images)
PARIS, FRANCE - JUNE 20: Lockheed Martin F-35 performs during the 52nd International Paris Air Show at Le Bourget Airport near Paris, France on June 20, 2017. (Photo by Mustafa Yalcin/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
JOINT BASE ANDREWS, MD - SEPTEMBER 15: U.S. President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump leave as they walk in front of an F-35 fighter jet after he spoke to Air Force personnel during an event September 15, 2017 at Joint Base Andrews in Maryland. President Trump attended the event to celebrate the 70th birthday of the U.S. Air Force. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
PARIS, FRANCE - JUNE 20: Lockheed Martin F-35 performs during the 52nd International Paris Air Show at Le Bourget Airport near Paris, France on June 20, 2017. (Photo by Mustafa Yalcin/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
This picture taken on April 25, 2017 shows a US F-35A Lightning II aircraft at Amari Air Base, Estonia. Two F-35A Lightning II aircraft and approximately 20 supporting airmen are from the 34th Fighter Squadron, 388th Fighter Wing, and the Air Force Reserve 466th Fighter Squadron, 419th Fighter Wing, Hill Air Force Base, in Utah (US). / AFP PHOTO / RAIGO PAJULA (Photo credit should read RAIGO PAJULA/AFP/Getty Images)
OGDEN, UT - MARCH 15: A F-35 fighter jet take-offs for a training mission at Hill Air Force Base on March 15, 2017 in Ogden, Utah. Hill is the first Air Force base to get combat ready F-35's. They currently have 17 that might be deployed in the fight against terrorism and ISIS in the near future. (Photo by George Frey/Getty Images)
AVALON, AUSTRALIA - MARCH 03: A Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) F-35 flies during the Avalon Airshow on March 3, 2017 in Avalon, Australia. Australia's first F-35s made their public debut at the Avalon Air Show. The two Joint Strike Fighters are currently based at Luke Air Force Base in the United States, but were flown to Australia for the first time by Royal Australian Air Force. (Photo by Scott Barbour/Getty Images)
An Israeli F-35 fighter jet performs in an air show during the graduation ceremony of Israeli air force pilots at the Hatzerim base in the Negev desert, near the southern Israeli city of Beer Sheva, on December 29, 2016. / AFP / JACK GUEZ (Photo credit should read JACK GUEZ/AFP/Getty Images)
FAIRFORD, ENGLAND - JULY 01: The first of Britain's new supersonic 'stealth' strike fighters accompanied by a United States Marine Corps F-35B aircraft, flies over the North Sea having taken off from RAF Fairford on July 1, 2016 in Gloucestershire, England. On Wednesday, the F-35B Lightning II jet was flown by RAF pilot Squadron Leader Hugh Nichols on its first transatlantic crossing, accompanied by two United States Marine Corps F-35B aircraft from their training base at Beaufort, South Carolina. The combined US/UK team of aircrew and engineers are here in the UK to demonstrate just what the 5th generation state of the art aircraft can do, flying at the Royal International Air Tattoo and Farnborough International Air Show over the next few weeks. The aircraft are due to enter service with the Royal Navy and RAF from 2018. (Photo by Matt Cardy/Getty Images)
***NETHERLANDS OUT*** Netherlans' F-35C Lightning II joint striker fighter aircraft fly in formation with F16 Fighting Falcon aircrafts during the Dutch Air Force Days at Leeuwarden Air Base in Leeuwarden on June 10, 2016. A Swiss fighter crashed and burst into flames in the Netherlands June 9 after hitting another jet during a training session before an air show, officials said. The pilot from the aerobatics team of the Swiss air force ejected to safety, Dutch and Swiss officials said. / AFP / ANP / Vincent Jannink / Netherlands OUT (Photo credit should read VINCENT JANNINK/AFP/Getty Images)
29 DEC 2015: F35 fighter planes flyover prior to the Lockheed Martin Armed Forces Bowl between the California Golden Bears and the Air Force Falcons at Amon G. Carter Stadium in Fort Worth, TX. (Photo by Andrew Dieb/Icon Sportswire) (Photo by Andrew Dieb/Icon Sportswire/Corbis via Getty Images)
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In reality, nobody knows if the US's missile defenses against North Korea would actually work, and there's plenty of reason to doubt it. And advanced ICBMs with multiple warheads or decoy warheads can most likely totally confuse and render missile defenses useless.

But before a ICBM accelerates to Mach 13, it takes off the launchpad and lurches up to speed and the entire missile, warhead, and all is together in a single target.

At that point, why not shoot it down with an air-to-air missile from an F-35?

The F-35 as a missile interceptor

The US Air Force has had air-to-air missiles that lock on to hot, flying targets for decades, and an ICBM is essentially that in its first stage.

And it's not just a theory. In 2007, Lockheed Martin got $3 million to look into an air-to-air hit-to-kill missile system. In 2014, a test seemed to prove the concept.

But the F-35 program, usually not one to shy away from boasting about their achievements, has been hushed about the prospect of defeating one of the gravest threats to the US.

"I can tell you that the F-35 is a multi-mission fighter," Commander Patrick Evans of the Office of the Secretary of Defense told Business Insider when asked about the program. "It would be inappropriate to speculate on future capabilities or missions of the weapon system."

Rep. Duncan Hunter, a member of the House Armed Services Committee, was more open to speculating about why the Pentagon hadn't gone through with missile intercepting planes.

“Very simple, what we're trying to do is shoot [air-to-air missiles] off F-35s in the first 300 seconds it takes for the missile to go up in the air,” Hunter said during a November meeting on Capitol Hill with the Missile Defense Advocacy Alliance, Inside Defense noted. Hunter also pointed out that in some places, North Korea is just 75 miles across, well within the F-35's missile range, Aviation Week notes.

Hunter blamed a broken defense industrial complex for not picking up the air-to-air intercept sooner. 

"There's not a retired general that works for company A that says, 'I would like to do that thing that costs no money and it doesn't get me a contract.' No one says that," Hunter said, as Inside Defense noted. Indeed, the US has spent $40 billion on ground-based missile interception with a hardly functioning system to show for it.

An F-35 missile intercept over North Korea may be an act of war

The F-35, and the present crisis with North Korea, may demand some expediency from the Pentagon. The F-35, with its all-aspect stealth, is ideal for breaking into North Korea's protected airspace. It can already use the missile in question, and its sensor fusion makes it the ideal plane for the job.

The only drawback is that the F-35 needs to get close to the missile as it's leaving the launchpad, which means firing missiles over enemy territory, something North Korea could see as an act of war.

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As tensions rise, North Korea stages mass rally in Pyongyang
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As tensions rise, North Korea stages mass rally in Pyongyang
A view shows a Pyongyang city mass rally held at Kim Il Sung Square on August 9, 2017, to fully support the statement of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) government in this photo released on August 10, 2017 by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) in Pyongyang. KCNA/via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY. REUTERS IS UNABLE TO INDEPENDENTLY VERIFY THIS IMAGE. NO THIRD PARTY SALES. SOUTH KOREA OUT. NO COMMERCIAL OR EDITORIAL SALES IN SOUTH KOREA.?
Servicepersons of the Ministry of People's Security met on August 10, 2017 to express full support for the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) government statement, in this photo released on August 11, 2017 by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) in Pyongyang. KCNA/via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY. REUTERS IS UNABLE TO INDEPENDENTLY VERIFY THIS IMAGE. NO THIRD PARTY SALES. SOUTH KOREA OUT.
A general view shows a Pyongyang city mass rally held at Kim Il Sung Square on August 9, 2017, to fully support the statement of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) government in this photo released on August 10, 2017 by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) in Pyongyang. KCNA/via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY. REUTERS IS UNABLE TO INDEPENDENTLY VERIFY THIS IMAGE. NO THIRD PARTY SALES. SOUTH KOREA OUT. NO COMMERCIAL OR EDITORIAL SALES IN SOUTH KOREA.??
Servicepersons of the Ministry of People's Security met on August 10, 2017 to express full support for the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) government statement, in this photo released on August 11, 2017 by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) in Pyongyang. KCNA/via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY. REUTERS IS UNABLE TO INDEPENDENTLY VERIFY THIS IMAGE. NO THIRD PARTY SALES. SOUTH KOREA OUT. TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
A general view shows a Pyongyang city mass rally held at Kim Il Sung Square on August 9, 2017, to fully support the statement of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) government in this photo released on August 10, 2017 by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) in Pyongyang. KCNA/via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY. REUTERS IS UNABLE TO INDEPENDENTLY VERIFY THIS IMAGE. NO THIRD PARTY SALES. SOUTH KOREA OUT. NO COMMERCIAL OR EDITORIAL SALES IN SOUTH KOREA.??
A general view shows a Pyongyang city mass rally held at Kim Il Sung Square on August 9, 2017, to fully support the statement of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) government in this photo released on August 10, 2017 by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) in Pyongyang. KCNA/via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY. REUTERS IS UNABLE TO INDEPENDENTLY VERIFY THIS IMAGE. NO THIRD PARTY SALES. SOUTH KOREA OUT. NO COMMERCIAL OR EDITORIAL SALES IN SOUTH KOREA.??
People participate in a Pyongyang city mass rally held at Kim Il Sung Square on August 9, 2017, to fully support the statement of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) government in this photo released on August 10, 2017 by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) in Pyongyang. KCNA/via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY. REUTERS IS UNABLE TO INDEPENDENTLY VERIFY THIS IMAGE. NO THIRD PARTY SALES. SOUTH KOREA OUT. NO COMMERCIAL OR EDITORIAL SALES IN SOUTH KOREA.?
People participate in a Pyongyang city mass rally held at Kim Il Sung Square on August 9, 2017, to fully support the statement of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) government in this photo released on August 10, 2017 by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) in Pyongyang. KCNA/via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY. REUTERS IS UNABLE TO INDEPENDENTLY VERIFY THIS IMAGE. NO THIRD PARTY SALES. SOUTH KOREA OUT. NO COMMERCIAL OR EDITORIAL SALES IN SOUTH KOREA.?
A general view shows a Pyongyang city mass rally held at Kim Il Sung Square on August 9, 2017, to fully support the statement of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) government in this photo released on August 10, 2017 by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) in Pyongyang. KCNA/via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY. REUTERS IS UNABLE TO INDEPENDENTLY VERIFY THIS IMAGE. NO THIRD PARTY SALES. SOUTH KOREA OUT. NO COMMERCIAL OR EDITORIAL SALES IN SOUTH KOREA.
A view shows a Pyongyang city mass rally held at Kim Il Sung Square on August 9, 2017, to fully support the statement of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) government in this photo released on August 10, 2017 by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) in Pyongyang. KCNA/via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY. REUTERS IS UNABLE TO INDEPENDENTLY VERIFY THIS IMAGE. NO THIRD PARTY SALES. SOUTH KOREA OUT. NO COMMERCIAL OR EDITORIAL SALES IN SOUTH KOREA.?
A view shows a Pyongyang city mass rally held at Kim Il Sung Square on August 9, 2017, to fully support the statement of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) government in this photo released on August 10, 2017 by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) in Pyongyang. KCNA/via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY. REUTERS IS UNABLE TO INDEPENDENTLY VERIFY THIS IMAGE. NO THIRD PARTY SALES. SOUTH KOREA OUT. NO COMMERCIAL OR EDITORIAL SALES IN SOUTH KOREA.?
TOPSHOT - This picture taken on August 11, 2017 and released by North Korea's official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) on August 12, 2017 shows North Korean youths and workers and trade union members holding a rally to protest the UN Security Council's 'sanctions resolution' at the compound of the Monument to Party Founding in Pyongyang. Nearly a week ago, the UN Security Council unanimously passed fresh sanctions against Pyongyang over its weapons program, including export bans, a new punishment that could cost North Korea $1 billion a year. / AFP PHOTO / KCNA VIS KNS AND AFP PHOTO / STR / South Korea OUT / REPUBLIC OF KOREA OUT ---EDITORS NOTE--- RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE - MANDATORY CREDIT 'AFP PHOTO/KCNA VIA KNS' - NO MARKETING NO ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS - DISTRIBUTED AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS THIS PICTURE WAS MADE AVAILABLE BY A THIRD PARTY. AFP CAN NOT INDEPENDENTLY VERIFY THE AUTHENTICITY, LOCATION, DATE AND CONTENT OF THIS IMAGE. THIS PHOTO IS DISTRIBUTED EXACTLY AS RECEIVED BY AFP. / (Photo credit should read STR/AFP/Getty Images)
This picture taken on August 11, 2017 and released by North Korea's official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) on August 12, 2017 shows North Korean youths and workers and trade union members holding a rally to protest the UN Security Council's 'sanctions resolution' at the Youth Park Open-Air theatre in Pyongyang. Nearly a week ago, the UN Security Council unanimously passed fresh sanctions against Pyongyang over its weapons program, including export bans, a new punishment that could cost North Korea $1 billion a year. / AFP PHOTO / KCNA VIS KNS AND AFP PHOTO / STR / South Korea OUT / REPUBLIC OF KOREA OUT ---EDITORS NOTE--- RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE - MANDATORY CREDIT 'AFP PHOTO/KCNA VIA KNS' - NO MARKETING NO ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS - DISTRIBUTED AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS THIS PICTURE WAS MADE AVAILABLE BY A THIRD PARTY. AFP CAN NOT INDEPENDENTLY VERIFY THE AUTHENTICITY, LOCATION, DATE AND CONTENT OF THIS IMAGE. THIS PHOTO IS DISTRIBUTED EXACTLY AS RECEIVED BY AFP. / (Photo credit should read STR/AFP/Getty Images)
A view shows a Pyongyang city mass rally held at Kim Il Sung Square on August 9, 2017, to fully support the statement of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) government in this photo released on August 10, 2017 by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) in Pyongyang. KCNA/via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY. REUTERS IS UNABLE TO INDEPENDENTLY VERIFY THIS IMAGE. NO THIRD PARTY SALES. SOUTH KOREA OUT. NO COMMERCIAL OR EDITORIAL SALES IN SOUTH KOREA.?
This picture taken on August 10, 2017 and released by North Korea's official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) on August 11, 2017 shows service personnel of the Ministry of People's Security at a rally in support of North Korea's stance against the US, in Pyongyang. / AFP PHOTO / KCNA VIA KNS / STR / South Korea OUT / REPUBLIC OF KOREA OUT ---EDITORS NOTE--- RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE - MANDATORY CREDIT 'AFP PHOTO/KCNA VIA KNS' - NO MARKETING NO ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS - DISTRIBUTED AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS THIS PICTURE WAS MADE AVAILABLE BY A THIRD PARTY. AFP CAN NOT INDEPENDENTLY VERIFY THE AUTHENTICITY, LOCATION, DATE AND CONTENT OF THIS IMAGE. THIS PHOTO IS DISTRIBUTED EXACTLY AS RECEIVED BY AFP. / (Photo credit should read STR/AFP/Getty Images)
A view shows a Pyongyang city mass rally held at Kim Il Sung Square on August 9, 2017, to fully support the statement of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) government in this photo released on August 10, 2017 by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) in Pyongyang. KCNA/via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY. REUTERS IS UNABLE TO INDEPENDENTLY VERIFY THIS IMAGE. NO THIRD PARTY SALES. SOUTH KOREA OUT. NO COMMERCIAL OR EDITORIAL SALES IN SOUTH KOREA.?
This picture taken on August 10, 2017 and released by North Korea's official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) on August 11, 2017 shows service personnel of the Ministry of People's Security at a rally in support of North Korea's stance against the US, in Pyongyang. / AFP PHOTO / KCNA VIA KNS / STR / South Korea OUT / REPUBLIC OF KOREA OUT ---EDITORS NOTE--- RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE - MANDATORY CREDIT 'AFP PHOTO/KCNA VIA KNS' - NO MARKETING NO ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS - DISTRIBUTED AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS THIS PICTURE WAS MADE AVAILABLE BY A THIRD PARTY. AFP CAN NOT INDEPENDENTLY VERIFY THE AUTHENTICITY, LOCATION, DATE AND CONTENT OF THIS IMAGE. THIS PHOTO IS DISTRIBUTED EXACTLY AS RECEIVED BY AFP. / (Photo credit should read STR/AFP/Getty Images)
A general view shows a Pyongyang city mass rally held at Kim Il Sung Square on August 9, 2017, to fully support the statement of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) government in this photo released on August 10, 2017 by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) in Pyongyang. KCNA/via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY. REUTERS IS UNABLE TO INDEPENDENTLY VERIFY THIS IMAGE. NO THIRD PARTY SALES. SOUTH KOREA OUT. NO COMMERCIAL OR EDITORIAL SALES IN SOUTH KOREA.??
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But if North Korea's missile is not a test, and an actual threat to the US or its allies, F-35s intercepts could be a game changer. The US reportedly knew about North Korea's last launch three days in advance despite its efforts to hide the preparations — which would give the US plenty of time to get the F-35s in place.

There's also the issue of North Korea finding out that F-35s could effectively neuter its nuclear force, and then how Pyongyang would react to the virtually undetectable plane going anywhere near its borders. The F-35 was already a nightmare for North Korean defenses before the missile intercept prospect came up.

For now, at least one member of the House Armed Services Committee seems to think the F-35 is the best bet for giving the US an asymmetrical advantage against North Korea's nukes.

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