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The first operational Japan Air Self-Defense Force F-35A stealth fighter arrives at Misawa Air Base, Japan, Friday, Jan. 26, 2018.
The first operational Japan Air Self-Defense Force F-35A stealth fighter arrives at Misawa Air Base, Japan, Friday, Jan. 26, 2018. (Deana Heitzman/U.S. Air Force)
The first operational Japan Air Self-Defense Force F-35A stealth fighter arrives at Misawa Air Base, Japan, Friday, Jan. 26, 2018.
The first operational Japan Air Self-Defense Force F-35A stealth fighter arrives at Misawa Air Base, Japan, Friday, Jan. 26, 2018. (Deana Heitzman/U.S. Air Force)
Japan Air Self-Defense Force members join 35th Fighter Wing and Naval Air Facility-Misawa leadership to watch Japan's first F-35A arrive at Misawa Air Base, Friday, Jan. 26, 2018.
Japan Air Self-Defense Force members join 35th Fighter Wing and Naval Air Facility-Misawa leadership to watch Japan's first F-35A arrive at Misawa Air Base, Friday, Jan. 26, 2018. (Deana Heitzman/U.S. Air Force)

U.S. and Japanese airmen have welcomed the first operational Japan Air Self-Defense Force F-35A Lightning II to Misawa Air Base in northern Honshu.

The new state-of-the-art stealth fighters touched down last Friday at the home of the Air Force’s 35th Fighter Wing. Nine more F-35As will soon join it to form Japan’s inaugural fifth-generation fighter squadron at Misawa, an Air Force statement said.

“The F-35A will bring transformation in air defense power and significantly contribute to the peace for citizens and ensure security,” Maj. Gen. Kenichi Samejimia, commander of Japan’s 3rd Air Wing, said in the statement.

Servicemembers will do their best to secure flight safety and establish an operational squadron quickly, he said.

Japan is one of a dozen countries to purchase the F-35A, which is marketed as a multirole aircraft with advanced electronics designed to maximize situational awareness.

“This aircraft represents not only a big step forward in technological advancements and combat capabilities but also in U.S.-Japan relations,” said 35th Fighter Wing commander Col. Scott Jobe. “We look forward to training alongside our JASDF counterparts and continuing to enhance the safety and security of Japan together.”

Last September, Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 121 at Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni showed off its F-35Bs to members of the 3rd Air Wing. The B variant is a short-takeoff, vertical-landing aircraft meant to replace the Marines Corps’ F/A-18 Hornet, AV-8B Harrier and EA-6B Prowler.

The F-35A takes off and lands like a traditional fighter jet but has the same airframe and other characteristics as the Marines’ model.

Japan plans to buy 42 F-35As to replace its fleet of 60-year-old F-4 Phantom II fighters.

cook.leon@stripes.comTwitter: @LeonCook12

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