Iwakuni Marines teach Japanese airmen all about the F-35 stealth fighter
By LEON COOK | STARS AND STRIPES Published: September 15, 2017
A group of Japanese airmen recently visited Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni to learn more about the F-35 Lightning II ahead of the stealth fighter’s expected arrival at Misawa Air Base by 2019.
Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 121 hosted members of the Japan Self-Defense Force’s 3rd Air Wing for an educational tour about the aircraft, a Marine Corps statement said. The JASDF is set to acquire 10 F-35As for the Misawa squadron.
“The purpose of [Wednesday’s] tour was to bring some JASDF maintainers down … and show them how we operate our maintenance department here in Iwakuni,” Maj. Adam Wellington, an aircraft maintenance officer for VMFA-121, said in the statement.
JASDF personnel took part in several classes covering subjects such as maintenance, serviceability and operability, the statement said. They also took a peek at Iwakuni’s F-35B hangar to see, touch and study the aircraft up close.
“It is very significant for us to see, meet and talk with personnel who are already operating or supporting the F-35,” JASDF Lt. Col. Mamoru Yamaura, F-35A Lightning II program office chief with the 3rd Air Wing, said in the statement. “This exchange program is very instructive for us. We’ve learned a lot about the F-35 and the United States Marine Corps. I believe we should have many more exchanges like this.”
The F-35B used by the Marines is a short-takeoff, vertical-landing aircraft meant to replace the F/A-18 Hornet, AV-8B Harrier and EA-6B Prowler. Its development was plagued with issues, and at one point President Donald Trump indicated he might scrap the program altogether.
The F-35A lacks the short-takeoff and vertical-landing capabilities of the B variant, but the airframe and its characteristics are common to both models. Japan’s Defense Ministry included a $797 million request for six F-35As in this year’s budget.