|E-8C Joint Surveillance Target Attack Radar System. Yonhap|
The United States flew E-8C surveillance aircraft over areas near the Korean Peninsula, an aviation tracker said Thursday, on an apparent mission to collect intelligence regarding North Korea.
Two E-8C Joint Surveillance Target Attack Radar System (JSTARS) aircraft arrived at Kadena Air Base in Japan's Okinawa on Sunday "to resume missions over the Korean Peninsula," Aircraft Spots said in a Twitter post.
The aircraft flew over Japan on Wednesday and took off from the base again later in the day for a "Korean Peninsula mission," the tracker said. It was unclear whether both of the two E-8C planes were involved in the mission.
It is the first time that the U.S. has dispatched the surveillance aircraft to the base in Japan since early 2018, though the U.S. has often flown its reconnaissance plane, an RC-135W Rivet Joint, over Seoul and surrounding areas recently more often than before to step up its surveillance of North Korea.
The deployment came after North Korea test-fired a new type of SLBM, the Pukguksong-3, on Oct. 2.
It was North Korea's 11th weapons test so far this year, but the first test firing of the submarine-based projectile, which is classified as a medium-range missile, since August 2016. During the previous 10 rounds of tests, Pyongyang fired only short-range projectiles.
The South Korean military has said it is monitoring the situation in case the North conducts additional launches and is maintaining a readiness posture.
As a platform for airborne command and control, surveillance and reconnaissance, the E-8C is known to be capable of closely monitoring of North Korea's troops and equipment movements, including missiles and artillery guns.
The dispatch of the surveillance aircraft also could be aimed at collecting intelligence with regards to other neighboring countries, such as China. (Yonhap)