Seoul, South Korea – As the US and its allied nations step up military exercises amid tensions with North Korea, US Apache attack helicopters have conducted live fire drills with rockets and guns for the first time since 2019.

They resumed training at the Rodriguez Live Fire Complex, just south of the heavily fortified Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) along the border, after training was canceled in recent years. Those living nearby complained about noise and safety concerns.

Over the past week, AH-64E Apache helicopters were performing maneuvers that resulted in the release of video and photographic images by the US 2nd Infantry Division.

The crews are practicing on the AGM-114 Hellfire missile, Hydra 70 rocket, and 30mm cannon during both day and night, the division stated on Twitter.

The drills follow the announcement by the allies that they will resume other live-field exercises scaled back for several years because of Covid-19 and attempts to reduce tensions with the North.

South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol has vowed to “normalize” joint drills and boost deterrence against the North.

As a response to complaints, the Apache drills will also measure how loud they are, a Defense Ministry official said.

Image Source: The Jakarta Post

A request for comment from US Forces Korea (USFK) did not receive an immediate response.

US pilots and crews lacked live-fire training, according to a former senior official in the US defense department.

He spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss US military operations and said they were less ready when they left (South Korea) than when they arrived. A quarter after no live-fire drills, the Pentagon paid for Apache crews to return to the United States for qualification exercises, he noted.

He said the problem was worsened when the US military permanently stationed an Apache unit in South Korea in February.

In his term, Moon Jae-in and his administration were uninterested in working through the problems and reinstating the drills, and because of this, Yoon will most likely do more progress.