F-35B Debuts in Japan

Arriving as usual in Japan on January 18th, as per the usual for the US Marine Corps F-35B fighters who make their inaugural trip to Air Station, Iwakuni. The Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 121 operated the Lockheed Martin stealth fighter on its first operational overseas deployment.

The squadron was stationed in MCAS Yuma, Arizona with the 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing before arriving in Japan. After initially declaring operational capability back in July of 2015, the USMC then converted the Boeing F/A-18D squadron to F-35Bs with a total of 16 F-35Bs expected to arrive year in Iwakuni according to a Marine spokesman who spoke with FlightGlobal.

Designed to replace the Marine Corps’ AV-8B Harrier, F/A-18 Hornet and EA-6B Prowler, this short take-off vertical landing variant means change is coming. With this deployment the F-35B has officially become the first US stealth aircraft to be based west of Hawaii and Alaska in the Pacific theater permanently. Lockheed F-22s and Northrop Grumman B-2s however are still only on a temporary basis deployment by the US Air Force. The USMC unit will not be alone for long as new F-35As will also be deployed to foreign air forces in Australia, Japan, and South Korean in the next few years.

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