The US Marine Corps has deployed F-35B aircraft to Japan for the jets first operational deployment.
The first squadron of F-35Bs, Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 121, left their base in Arizona on Tuesday the 10th of January and will take a few days to arrive at the Iwakuni Air Station in Yamaguchi Prefecture in Japan.
Capt. Kurt Stahl said:
“The Short Take-off Vertical Landing (STOVL) aircraft is a true force multiplier. The unique combination of stealth, cutting-edge radar and sensor technology, and electronic warfare systems bring all of the access and lethality capabilities of a fifth-generation fighter, a modern bomber, and an adverse-weather, all-threat environment air support platform.”
VMFA-121 received its first F-35B in November 2012 ahead of the Marine Corps announcement of initial operational capability for the jet in July 2015.
This comes as Retired Marine General James Mattis recently backed the F-35 after it was criticised by President-elect Donald Trump.
Reported by ‘DoD Buzz‘, Senator Richard Blumenthal, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, told the Hartford Courant newspaper that Mattis gave a “clear commitment to the continuation of the F-35”.
Blumenthal said later
“I was encouraged by his clear commitment to American air superiority and important role of the F-35 in sustaining and enhancing it.”
The speculation started after a string of tweets posted by President-elect Donald Trump were interpreted by many to signal the end of the F-35.
It’s now clear that Trump sought to cut F-35 costs, not cancel the hugely valuable programme which supports more than 151,000 direct and indirect jobs in the US and tens of thousands more around the world.
Marillyn Hewson President and Chief Executive Officer of Lockheed Martin said she had a “very good conversation” with Trump and that she had “heard his message loud and clear about reducing the cost of the F-35”, according to a statement released by Lockheed Martin.
Trump tweeted earlier in the month:
“Based on the tremendous cost and cost overruns of the Lockheed Martin F-35 I have asked Boeing to price-out a comparable F-18 Super Hornet!”
Hewson added later that the conversation was “productive” and that she had “conveyed our commitment to delivering an affordable aircraft to our military and our allies.”
The president-elect later relented, revealing his intentions and confirming what many in the industry had suspected, that this was simply an effort to drive down costs.
“It’s a little bit of a dance. But we’re going to get the cost down.”
VMFA-121 has taken part in numerous drills and exercises in the US involving the F-35B.
The jets will also deploy aboard an amphibious flattop later in the year. The F-35B has already flown from American assault ships as part of a series of tests, which largely went well.
The US Marine Corps has said it is also capable of deploying their F-35’s to the Middle East, if necessary.