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Marine F-35Bs head to Japan

Photo: An F-35B from Marine Fighter Attack Squadron (VMFA) 121, 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing, refuels in flight while transiting the Pacific from Marine Corps Air Station Yuma, Arizona, to Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska, January 9, with its final destination of Iwakuni, Japan. USMC

 

The Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II has set off on its first worldwide deployment with the transfer of Marine Fighter Attack Squadron (VMFA) 121 to Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni, Japan.

VMFA-121 F-35Bs departed Marine Corps Air Station Yuma, Arizona on January 9 for the transit to East Asia. Iwakuni becomes the first location outside the CONUS to receive a permanent deployment of US military F-35s.

An F-35B with Marine Fighter Attack Squadron (VMFA) 121 prepares to depart Marine Corps Air Station Yuma, Arizona, as it transits the Pacific en route to Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni, Japan. USMC

The ‘Green Knights’ became the first operational F-35 squadron on November 20, 2012. Assigned to the 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing, VMFA-121 was formerly an F/A-18 Hornet squadron. The unit declared initial operating capability (IOC) on July 31, 2015, following a five-day operational readiness inspection (ORI).

An F-35B from VMFA-121 transits the Pacific from Marine Corps Air Station Yuma, Arizona, to Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska, January 9, 2017. USMC

The preparation for the move to Japan included participation in Exercise ‘Steel Knight’ in December 2015. This is a combined-arms live-fire exercise that brings together air and ground combat elements in an austere environment. According to the Marines, ‘The F-35B preformed exceedingly well during the exercise.’

Last October 2016, Marine Corps F-35Bs were involved in Developmental Test III and the Lightning Carrier Proof of Concept Demonstration aboard amphibious assault ship USS America (LHA 6). The final test period saw the F-35B tested in extreme at-sea conditions, with different weapons load-outs and the latest software installed. F-35B deployments aboard US Navy amphibious vessels will begin in 2018.

An F-35B from VMFA-121 prepares to take off from Marine Corps Air Station Yuma on January 9. USMC

 

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