There’s a whole lot of amphibious assault training and stealth fighter flying going on in Hawaii.
Marines and sailors with the 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit and Essex amphibious ready group out of California arrived in Hawaii for final training as the unit heads out on a Western Pacific and Middle East deployment.
The training marks the first appearance of the Marine Corps F-35B short-takeoff and vertical-landing fighter in Hawaii, the Corps said.
The amphibious force, which includes the Essex, USS Anchorage and USS Rushmore, is not part of Rim of the Pacific exercises.
Twenty-five nations, 46 ships, five submarines, about 200 aircraft and 25,000 personnel are participating in RIMPAC from June 27 to Aug. 2 mainly around Hawaii but also in Southern California.
The F-35B, the world’s first supersonic short-takeoff and vertical-landing stealth aircraft, is seen as a game-changer in the Pacific, where its ability to operate from austere locations without long runways is a challenge to long-range Chinese missiles.
The F-35Bs are operating with Hawaii Air National Guard F-22 Raptors — another stealth jet — far out at sea, the Marine Corps said. The advanced jets would lead the air campaign in a conflict in the Pacific.
On Friday amphibious assault vehicles from the group hit Bellows, and big troop- and equipment-carrying hovercraft landed on the Marine Corps base. A long-range “raid” was practiced using MV-22 Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft, with a landing at Bellows.
“We’re moving Marines ashore doing training across Oahu, but mostly at (Kaneohe Bay) and Bellows,” said Capt. Diann Rosenfeld, a spokeswoman for the 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit.
The United States, Australia, Indonesia and the Philippines have amphibious ships in this year’s RIMPAC. Earlier this month Kaneohe Marines drove 14 amphibious assault vehicles through the sea to Australia’s HMAS Adelaide for beach assaults next week.
On July 12, meanwhile, hovercraft from the USS Bonhomme Richard landed at the Marine Corps base.
Late last year the amphibious assault ship USS Wasp pulled into Pearl Harbor for a port visit on its way to Japan for a turnover with the Bonhomme Richard as the forward-deployed flagship of U.S. amphibious forces in the Western Pacific.
Shortly afterward 16 F-35Bs from Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 121 were transferred from Yuma, Ariz., to Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni in Japan.
A detachment of the squadron’s F-35Bs landed aboard the Wasp on March 5, marking the first time the aircraft deployed aboard a Navy ship and with a Marine Expeditionary Unit in the Indo-Pacific, the Navy said.
The stealth fighter was developed to replace the Marine Corps’ F/A-18 Hornet, AV-8B Harrier and EA- 6B Prowler.
The F-35 family includes three variants: the Air Force’s F-35A with conventional takeoff and landing; the Marines’ F-35B with short takeoff; and the F-35C aircraft carrier variant for the Navy.