US and Asian Countries Operating the F-35 Plan Combat Use of Stealth Fighter vs China
The United States and the three Asian counties that have bought the Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter met this week in a symposium to discuss how best to employ the world's most advanced stealth fighter in Asia, especially in trouble spots such as the South China Sea.
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Some 90 representatives from the U.S. Air Force; U.S. Navy and U.S. Marine Corps, and from Australia, Japan and South Korea, attended Pacific Air Forces' (PACAF) inaugural F-35 Symposium to discuss plans for leveraging the immense advantages proffered by the fifth-generation fighter in Asia.
Discussions focused on "enhancing F-35 operations in the Pacific; sharing fifth-generation lessons learned and building a foundation for future F-35 bilateral and multilateral engagements." Specifically, the meeting dwelt on integration, logistics, sustainment and combat operations.
"This symposium marks an exciting new chapter in Pacific combat capability," said Air Force Brig. Gen. Craig Wills, PACAF's strategy, plans and programs director.
"Together, our joint and international partners have introduced the most capable combat aircraft in the world to the Pacific."
The symposium affirmed the F-35 will be the backbone of future joint and combined air operations, enabling critical interoperability. It noted that when pilots from different nations fly the same plane, they talk the same language.
Asian nations that operate the F-35 ensure successful joint and combined operations well into the future through the F-35's foundational interoperability.
In January, the first 10 Lockheed Martin F-35B stealth fighters belonging to Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 121 (VMFA-121) arrived at Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni in Japan, marking the first permanent international deployment of the U.S. stealth fighter.
VMFA 121, also known as the "Green Knights," flies the F-35B, the Marine Corps version of the F-35 Lightning II. VMFA-121 will be the first F-35 squadron permanently based in Japan.
The Japan Air Self-Defense Force (JASDF) on Dec. 1, 2016 received its first combat ready F-35A at the U.S. Air Force's Luke Air Force Base in Arizona. The Japanese government signed a deal to buy 28 F-35As over the next five years, and will buy 14 more of the fifth generations stealth fighters part of a plan to purchase 42 of the jets.
The acquisition of the F-35s is a key part of Japan's plan to re-arm the JASDF with more modern weapons and equipment in the face of untrammeled Chinese aggression in Asia.
South Korea has ordered 40 F-35A jets for the Republic of Korea Air Force and expects to receive its first F-35s in 2018. The F-35 was selected because North Korean air defenses have difficulty detecting stealth aircraft.
The Royal Australian Air Force has 100 F-35As on order and in April 2015 confirmed the purchase of 58 of these stealth jets. The first four F-35s will be delivered to Australia in 2018, with initial operating capability being reached in 2020.