The United States is adding to its airpower in Japan with a dozen F-35A Lightning IIs and about 300 airmen set to deploy to Kadena Air Base in U.S. Pacific Command’s first operational assignment for the “A” model variant of the advanced stealth warplane.
The aircraft and support personnel, from the 34th Fighter Squadron at Hill Air Force Base in Utah, are scheduled to arrive at Kadena in early November for a six-month rotation, Pacific Air Forces said today.
A pair of the “fifth-generation” fighters debuted in the Indo-Asia-Pacific at the Seoul International Aerospace and Defense Exhibition last week.
“The F-35A gives the joint warfighter unprecedented global precision attack capability against current and emerging threats while complementing our air superiority fleet,” Gen. Terrence J. O’Shaughnessy, the commander of Pacific Air Forces in Hawaii, said in a release. “The airframe is ideally suited to meet our command’s obligations, and we look forward to integrating it into our training and operations.”
While a first in theater for the F-35A, the U.S. Marine Corps F-35B variant has been stationed at Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni in Japan since January.
The F-35 family includes three variants: the F-35A with conventional takeoff and landing; the F-35B with short takeoff/vertical landing; and the F-35C aircraft carrier variant, plane maker Lockheed Martin said. All are single-seat jets.
The F-35A is designed to operate from conventional runways, and is the only version to carry an internal cannon, according to Lockheed Martin. The F-35A will be the most prevalent variant of the F-35.
The manufacturer describes the F-35 as “the world’s most advanced multi-role fighter” and as a fifth-generation, or latest technology, warplane has advanced stealth, a helmet that allows a pilot to “see” through the plane and the ability to share data across platforms.
The F-35A is being deployed under U.S. Pacific Command’s “theater security package” program, which has been in operation since 2004.
“This long-planned deployment is designed to demonstrate the continuing U.S. commitment to stability and security in the region,” Pacific Air Forces said.
On Aug. 30, Marine Corps’ F-35Bs joined Air Force B-1B Lancer bombers for the first time in a training mission with Japan and South Korean air forces in Northeast Asia in a rebuke to North Korea. Two B-1Bs from Guam; four F-35Bs from Iwakuni, Japan; two Japan Air Self-Defense Force F-15Js; and four South Korea Air Force F-15Ks participated.
The U.S. and South Korean jets flew over the Korean Peninsula.
The mission was conducted “in direct response” to a North Korea intermediate-range ballistic missile that was launched over northern Japan on Aug. 28 and amid “rising tension over North Korea’s nuclear and ballistic missile development programs,” Pacific Air Forces said at the time.
“North Korea’s actions are a threat to our allies, partners and homeland, and their destabilizing actions will be met accordingly,” O’Shaughnessy said then.