Iwakuni mayor travels to Arizona to see F-35s in action
By DENISSE RAUDA | STARS AND STRIPES Published: October 25, 2016
The mayor of a Japanese city near Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni has traveled to the U.S. to gather information about the next-generation stealth fighters that will start flying over his constituents next year.
U.S. officials notified the Japanese government last week that 16 F-35B Lightning II fighters jets from Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 121 will replace the base’s AV-8B Harriers and F/A-18 Hornets.
Seeking to determine the aircraft’s potential effects on the community, Iwakuni Mayor Yoshihiko Fukuda visited Marine Corps Air Station Yuma, Ariz., on Monday to see the F-35s in action.
“The government of Japan already briefed me about the deployment plan,” Fukuda said, according to a Marine Corps statement. “However, I would rather have real information based on first-hand experience rather than the information given over the tabletop, such as listening to the [sound of the jets] in reality, and be able to confirm it myself.”
The F-35B boasts a short takeoff and vertical landing capabilities, while incorporating elements of all three of the force’s current aircraft — the AV-8B, F/A-18 and EA-6B — into a single airframe, a U.S. Forces Japan statement said.
“The type of training we will be conducting will be very similar to that of the F-18 you already see in Iwakuni,” Lt. Col. J. T. Bardo, the squadron’s commander, said in the Marine Corps statement. “The opportunity to be in Japan and as one of the first units and be able to train jointly with our partner services there is a great honor, and we are looking forward to it.”
Fukuda said his visit gave him a better understanding of the F-35 and its potential.
“I would like to thank all the commanders, leaders and pilots that provided me the information about the F-35B’s safety and about how the Marine Corps would respond to the community’s concerns and also the benefit from having the most state-of-art, advanced technology and what it has to offer compared to its predecessors,” he said.
The Navy announced this week that the Norfolk, Va.-based USS Wasp, which is capable of supporting the F-35s, will homeport at Sasebo Naval Base, Japan, starting next year. The amphibious assault ship will eventually replace the USS Bonhomme Richard.
Yoshihiko Fukuda, mayor of Iwakuni, Japan, observes an F-35B Lightning II at Marine Corps Air Station Yuma, Ariz., Monday, Oct. 24, 2016. U.S. officials notified the Japanese government last week that 16 of the stealth aircraft will be stationed at Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni next year.
NATHAN WICKS/U.S. MARINE CORPS