The first U.S. Marine Corps F-35Bs arrived at their new home at Marine Corps Air Station (MCAS) Iwakuni, Japan, on 18th January for their first overseas basing assignment. The aircraft are attached to Marine Fighter Attack Squadron (VMFA) 121, which has been transferred from MCAS Yuma, Arizona and now belongs to Marine Aircraft Group 12, 1st Marine Aircraft Wing, III Marine Expeditionary Force.
VMFA-121 “Green Knights” consists of the F-35B Lighting II aircraft, which is planned to replace the F/A-18 Hornet and AV-8B Harrier II aircraft currently based at the air station.
A total of 10 F-35Bs are scheduled to arrive this month, followed by another six over the summer. The F-35Bs had left MCAS Yuma, Arizona, to cross the Pacific on 9th January.
The U.S. Navy earlier announced that the multi-purpose amphibious assault ship USS Wasp (LHD 1), which is capable of operating the F-35, would become part of the U.S. 7th Fleet Forward Deployed Naval Forces (FDNF) in autumn 2017 in support of VMFA 121. USS Wasp, which has recently been modernized to accommodate the F-35B, will move from Norfolk, Va., to Sasebo, Japan.
In related news, the Japan Air Self-Defense Force recently received its second F-35, the 200th operational F-35 to be delivered to date. Japan has ordered 42 F-35As, 38 of which will be built at the Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Final Assembly & Check-Out facility in Nagoya, Japan. The first JASDF F-35A pilots have been in training at Luke AFB, Arizona, since November.