Osan Air Base may not be a name you're familiar with, but it's a US Air Force base that sits in a prime location: fewer than 50 miles from the Demilitarized Zone that separates North and South Korea. If that's not enough to get your attention, this line from NBC News might change that: "It's a facility so critical that war planners believe it's the North's No. 1 target should hostilities break out," and thousands of US military personnel are stationed there. The network reports on its exclusive visit to the base, which is home to the US Air Force's 51st Fighter Wing. There, air crews and patriot missile batteries are at the ready in the event of ballistic missiles or chemical attacks. When North Korea launched four ballistic missiles toward Japan in March, the Washington Post noted the launch site was fewer than 300 miles from the Osan base.
An F-16 pilot describes the state of constant alert as not just readiness, but the ability to "win tonight." Thae Yong Ho, a recent high-profile defector, tells the network that North Korea's Kim Jong Un is "desperate" and prepared to use nuclear force, and a lieutenant colonel at Osan says it's "the busiest we have ever been in this airplane," referring to a U-2 spy plane. Meanwhile, the US Air Force reported in a press release on a two-week command and control exercise held across the Korean Peninsula in March that saw 12,800 US forces join 10,000 South Korean military personnel and others from Australia, Canada, Denmark, France and Great Britain. It took place just as the US sent part of a controversial missile defense system called THAAD to Osan, reports NPR. (Japan weighs in on this week's "extremely problematic" test.)