One full squadron of US Marine F-35Bs is officially live in Japan for the looming possibility of confrontation between North Korea and the coalition of the US, South Korea and Japan.
Three new F-35Bs arrived at Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni this week, Stars and Stripes reports, bringing the total number of joint strike fighters at the only Marine Corps installation on Japan’s four main islands up to 16. The service celebrated its 242nd birthday November 12.
The F-35B reached initial operational capability in July 2015.
The fighter jets add a new dimension of strategic agility, operational maneuverability, and aerial supremacy for the III Marine Expeditionary Force, the Marines said in a statement.
The F-35B is unique among the F-35 family in that it can perform a short takeoff and vertical landing (STOVL) in the same way a helicopter or AV-8B Harrier jump jet can. Since the Marines operate ships that carry aircraft but have much shorter flight decks than the Nimitz- and Ford-class carriers, having the STOVL capability has been considered essential for the Marines.
The Marines have nine such amphibious assault carriers in their arsenal but the US Navy doesn’t technically consider them aircraft carriers — even though they carry aircraft like F-35Bs and helicopters — because they also carry large numbers of amphibious and ground forces as well.
In addition to the squadron of F-35Bs at Iwakuni, the US Navy recently carried out rare tri-carrier drills in the Western Pacific last week.