The US say the deployment of the brand new F-35A jets is to “demonstrate the continuing commitment to stability and security in the region”.
The jets’ arrival marks the first time the F-35A has deployed to the region after its debut at the Seoul International Aerospace and Defense Exhibition earlier this month, the US Air Force said last week.
Officials have lauded the Lightning II for its “unprecedented global precision attack capability against current and emerging threats.”
“With a very complex security environment, including [the situation with] North Korea, [the deployment of F-35A fighters] indicates that the US side is showing a certain extent of commitment to this region,” Japanese Defence Minister Itsunori Onodera told reporters on Friday.
American military aircraft often draw the ire of Okinawa’s anti-base protest movement. Onodera said he has requested that the US military minimise the F-35A’s impact on local residents by adhering to noise-control measures.
“The defence ministry will not only request the US side take maximum consideration for safety but also try to reduce the burden of local residents as much as possible through relocation of training,” Onodera said. “Firmly solving the security environment through diplomacy including issues with North Korea will lead to lessening the burden of Okinawa, and I would like to make that effort as a whole with the government.”
A squadron of F-35Bs from Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 121 arrived in January at Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni, Japan, to replace the F/A-18 Hornet, AV-8B Harrier and EA-6B Prowler.