The Pentagon has confirmed that 10 F-35Bs will deploy to Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni, Japan, in January 2017. The deployment, reported by the Kyodo news service, will be the first overseas deployment for the F-35B, the first squadron of which was declared operational in August 2015. According to Kyodo, the initial 10 aircraft will be joined by a further six F-35Bs in August 2017.
Iwakuni is currently host to Marine Corps F/A-18 fighters, which will eventually be replaced by F-35Bs at the base. The deployment is part of a familiarization for both pilots and base ground crews.
In other news, the F-35 programme completed a weapons testing “surge” on 22nd August, which is said to have sharply advanced clearance of the aircraft’s 3F software. The Integrated Test Force reported completing 25 tests—12 weapons delivery accuracy and 13 separation tests—as part of a month-long push to clear weapons for use on the jet. The previous high number of weapons tests in a month was three.
The programme office said five test events included multiple weapons, and overall tested 30 total munitions, including JDAM bombs, AIM-9X and AIM-120 AMRAAM dogfight missiles, 250-pound Small Diameter Bombs, and a combination laser/GPS-guided weapon.
The U.S. Marine Corps declared the F-35B combat-ready in July 2015, the U.S. Air Force declared F-35A Initial Operating Capability (IOC) on 2nd August 2016 and the U.S. Navy intends to attain F-35C IOC in 2018.
There are continuing doubts as to the F-35’s ability to achieve full operational capability within the planned 2021/22 time frame.