Rapid advancements in North Korea’s missile program have ramped up military tensions in East Asia, and many experts worry that a shooting war is a real possibility. The U.S. has a significant presence in the area, with thousands of troops in South Korea and Japan. Here are 21 US weapons that would play a role in any conflict with the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. In this photo, the intercontinental ballistic missile Hwasong-14 is seen during its test launch in this undated photo released by North Korea’s Korean Central News Agency.
Temperatures Rising on the Korean Peninsula
The U.S. has deployed launchers for the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense system in South Korea, though the move has been controversial there. THAAD is designed to shoot down ballistic missiles. In this photo, a Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) interceptor is launched from a THAAD battery located on Wake Island, during Flight Test Operational (FTO)-02 Event 2a, conducted Nov. 1, 2015. During the test, the THAAD system successfully intercepted two air-launched ballistic missile targets.
A-10 Thunderbolt II
A-10 Thunderbolt II “Warthogs” are part of the 51st Fighter Wing at Osan Air Base, South Korea. The durable jet provides ground support and is famous for its ability to destroy enemy tanks. In this photo, Airmen assigned to the 25th Aircraft Maintenance Unit perform preflight checks on an A-10 Thunderbolt II assigned to the 25th Fighter Squadron during Buddy Wing 17-3 at Osan Air Base, South Korea, Feb. 14, 2017. During Buddy Wing 17-3, pilots from the 25th FS and the South Korean air force’s 237th Tactical Control Squadron flew training missions to better interoperability in a wartime scenario.
In the wake of North Korea’s recent missile tests, the U.S. and South Korea have been test-firing the Army Tactical Missile System, a mobile surface-to-surface missile system with a range of 100 miles.
USS Ronald Reagan
The U.S. Navy has one carrier in the region, the USS Carl Vinson, and a second one on the way. Currently holding exercises with Australia, the USS Ronald Reagan is headed for Korea next.
The F/A-18 Hornet and its larger sibling, the F/A-18 Super Hornet, form the backbone of America’s carrier-based strike force. In this photo, U.S. Marine Corps Captain Kevin Reece, Marine Aviator for Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 212 (VMFA-212), pilots his F/A-18 Hornet over the South China Sea.
MH-53 Sea Dragon
The Sea Dragon is the Navy’s heavy-lift workhorse. It helps protect carriers from mines and can carry up to 55 soldiers or 16 tons of equipment. In this photo, a Sea Dragon sits on the deck of the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson (CVN 70), which is currently stationed in the Pacific.
Carrier groups are protected by stealthy submarines. In this photo, the USS Tucson, a Los Angeles–class nuclear fast attack submarine, conducts readiness exercises with the Republic of Korea in 2010.
US and South Korean Soldiers
On land, the most important weapon may be the troops in the Army and Marines. In this photo, U.S. soldiers of the Second Infantry Division of U.S. Forces Korea and South Korean army soldiers pose after their live firing drill at the U.S. army’s Rodriguez range in Pocheon, about 9 miles south of the demilitarized zone separating the two Koreas, March 15, 2012. The drill was part of the annual Foal Eagle military exercises by the U.S. and South Korea.
M109 Self-Propelled 155mm Howitzer
The Korean Peninsula is small, with many targets in artillery range, which makes the 155-mm howitzer one of the most important weapons in this environment. In this photo, a U.S. Army M109A6 Paladin self-propelled howitzer of the Second Infantry Division of U.S. Forces Korea attends a live firing drill in South Korea in 2012.
M1A2 Abrams Tank
The North Korean army possesses more than 4,000 tanks, which are countered by American M1A2 Abrams battle tanks, along with a South Korean variant, the K1.
Bradley Fighting Vehicle
Headquartered in South Korea, the U.S. Second Infantry Division operates the Bradley, an armored troop carrier that can also fight.
MQ-1 Predator Drone
Drones are now an integral of the U.S. military and would no doubt play a role in any conflict on the Korean Peninsula. The Predator can launch Hellfire missiles as well as engage in reconnaissance.
F-16 Fighting Falcon
The F-16 is the workhorse of the U.S. Air Force fighter wings in South Korea. Here, an F-16 Fighting Falcon takes off from Kunsan Air Base, South Korea, to participate in exercise Max Thunder 15-1 April 10, 2015, at Gwangju Air Base, South Korea.
AH-64 Apache helicopters
The U.S. is beefing its attack helicopter force in South Korea, with two dozen new Apaches arriving in recent months.
E-3 Sentry AWACS
AWACS (airborne early warning and control) aircraft play a crucial role when it comes to analyzing and controlling the battle space.
U-2 Spy Plane
The Cold War-era U2 is still in service, with several stationed in South Korea to keep an eye on the north.
US Cyber Command
While much of what it does is secret, U.S. Cyber Command would no doubt play an important role in any Korean conflict. Many experts believe that cyberwarriors are already engaged in with North Korea, and may have played a role in recent missile failures there.
HH-60 Pave Hawk
The HH-60 Pave Hawk is derived from the UH-60 Black Hawk, the all-purpose military helicopter in the U.S. military since the 1980s. The Pave Hawk is used by special forces, as well as for search and rescue.
W-53 Nuclear Warhead
No one wants nuclear war, but U.S. forces have kept all options on the table. This Mark 6 re-entry vehicle contains the W-53 nuclear warhead, fitted to a Titan II missile on 21 February 1999.
A Titan missile capable of carrying nuclear warheads. This photo shows an armed Titan-II 23G-9 B-107 carrying DMSP-5D3 F-16 Final Titan II launch, October 2003.