The US military has begun deploying state-of-the-art fighter aircraft F-35s to Japan. This is the first operational deployment of the sophisticated stealth fighters outside the US soil.
The US Marine Corps said the first squadron of the F-35B fighters left from its base in Arizona on Tuesday, 10 January. It will take several days for the first set of 10 aircraft to arrive at the Iwakuni Air Station in Yamaguchi Prefecture in Japan.
The F-35s, which can make short takeoffs and vertical landings, are meant to replace the FA-18s and other aircraft in the region under Washington's "pivot to Asia" policy.
"The Short Take-off Vertical Landing (STOVL) aircraft is a true force multiplier. The unique combination of stealth, cutting-edge radar and sensor technology, and electronic warfare systems bring all of the access and lethality capabilities of a fifth-generation fighter, a modern bomber, and an adverse-weather, all-threat environment air support platform," said Captain Kurt Stahl, a spokesman for the unit, over the deployment.
Some of the aircraft, the US's Defence Department's most advanced equipment, will prepare for wide-ranging deployment in the Pacific and will be utilised for training purposes. The F-35s are also under close scrutiny especially from President-elect Donald Trump. In the past, its technical glitches and soaring prices have attracted negative publicity. The Lockheed Martin-manufactured fighter is the most expensive warplane in history and cost overruns are only expected to continue.
"The unique combination of stealth, cutting-edge radar and sensor technology, and electronic warfare systems bring all of the access and lethality capabilities of a fifth-generation fighter, a modern bomber, and an adverse-weather, all-threat environment air-support platform," said the Marines in a statement.