First F-35B Squadron Moves to Japan


By: Valerie Insinna, January 10, 2017 (Photo Credit: US Marine Corps)

WASHINGTON — A Marine Corps F-35B squadron has transferred from the United States to Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni in Japan, marking the first permanent international deployment of the joint strike fighter, the service announced Tuesday.

Marine Corps spokesman Capt Kurt Stahl told Defense News that 10 F-35Bs from Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 121 (VMFA-121) departed Marine Corps Air Station Yuma in Arizona on Monday, with the first jets slated to arrive in Japan on Wednesday. All 10 F-35s will arrive at Iwakuni by Thursday. Eventually, an additional six jets will be relocated from Yuma to Iwakuni, bringing the squadron up to a full 16 aircraft.

VMFA-121 is a part of the 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing.

“The transition of VMFA-121 from MCAS Yuma to MCAS Iwakuni marks a significant milestone in the F-35B program as the Marine Corps continues to lead the way in the advancement of stealth fighter attack aircraft,” the service said in a statement.

The Marine Corps’ short takeoff vertical landing version of the F-35 is the first variant of the aircraft to be permanently stationed outside of the United States. VMFA-121 became the US military’s first operational F-35 squadron in July 2015. Since then, the squadron “has continued to fly sorties and employ ordnance as part of their normal training cycle,” the Marine Corps said.

One such demonstration was Exercise Steel Knight in December 2015, a live-fire exercise that combined ground and air operations. The F-35B also took part in a proof-of-concept demo aboard amphibious assault ship America last October, where pilots tested the jet’s ability to operate in harsh at-sea conditions with a range of weapons.

The Air Force will become the next US service to internationally deploy the joint strike fighter, but is opting to locate its first squadron in Europe rather than in the Asia-Pacific. The F-35A will be permanently based at Royal Air Force Base Lakenheath in England as early as 2020.

Source: Defense News “First F-35B Squadron Moves to Japan”

Note: This is Defense News’ report I post here for readers’ information. It does not mean that I agree or disagree with the report’ views.

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6 Comments on “First F-35B Squadron Moves to Japan”

  1. Simon says:

    It should be noted that this squadron of F35s are piloted by the yanks under the service of American occupying forces in Japan, not under the JSF.

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  2. Simon says:

    There are 12 J-20s already in service and more to come.

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    • Oscar says:

      If there are 12 J-20’s in service then why are they hiding? Let them show themselves. The Chinese have claimed that the J-20 is superior to the F-35. If this is so then why don’t they come out and play? Let them use this so called “Mighty Dragon” J-20 to patrol the South China Sea. Is China afraid that the J-20 will be shown as a paper tiger?

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  3. Fre Okin says:

    Moving the F35B to Japan is like the earlier ‘not ready for combat’ deployment of the basic F35 version. That was at least three years ago. Just a paper tiger. Without F22 escort, all F35 variants are vulnerable to a one way trip and never come back. Maybe the N Koreans may be fearful, certainly not China.

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  4. Tyler reber says:

    It seems rather idiotic to deploy weapons that won’t be rated for combat for 5 more years. Isn’t it just an opportunity for China to learn how to study them when they are so close? Assuming they can’t see them already.

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    • Steve says:

      It would be a fantastic opportunity for the F35s and China’s jets shadow each other over the ECS. Also, the Japanese would be desperate to have the F35s stationed in Japan due to China’s J-20s, up and coming J-10Cs and increased activity by PLAN and PLAAF. In case of an accidental aerial shootout, the Japanese can no longer depend on the F15s and F16s. The Taiwan factor is another reason for the F35s deployment.

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