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The 42nd annual Friendship Day attracted more than 215,000 people to Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni, Japan, Saturday, May 5, 2018.
The 42nd annual Friendship Day attracted more than 215,000 people to Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni, Japan, Saturday, May 5, 2018. (Lauren Brune/U.S. Marine Corps)
The 42nd annual Friendship Day attracted more than 215,000 people to Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni, Japan, Saturday, May 5, 2018.
The 42nd annual Friendship Day attracted more than 215,000 people to Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni, Japan, Saturday, May 5, 2018. (Lauren Brune/U.S. Marine Corps)
Air-show visitors take refuge from the sun under the wing of an AC-130 gunship during the 42nd annual Friendship Day at Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni, Japan, Saturday, May 5, 2018.
Air-show visitors take refuge from the sun under the wing of an AC-130 gunship during the 42nd annual Friendship Day at Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni, Japan, Saturday, May 5, 2018. (James Bolinger/Stars and Stripes)
Navy pilots from Carrier Air Wing 5 pose with children in front of an EA-18G Growler at Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni, Japan, Saturday, May 5, 2018.
Navy pilots from Carrier Air Wing 5 pose with children in front of an EA-18G Growler at Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni, Japan, Saturday, May 5, 2018. (James Bolinger/Stars and Stripes)
A Marine helps a visitor put on body armor during the 42nd annual Friendship Day at Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni, Japan,  Saturday, May 5, 2018.
A Marine helps a visitor put on body armor during the 42nd annual Friendship Day at Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni, Japan, Saturday, May 5, 2018. (James Bolinger/Stars and Stripes)
Marine Aerial Refueling Transport Squadron 152 demonstrates an aerial refueling during the 42nd annual Friendship Day at Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni, Japan, Saturday, May 5, 2018.
Marine Aerial Refueling Transport Squadron 152 demonstrates an aerial refueling during the 42nd annual Friendship Day at Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni, Japan, Saturday, May 5, 2018. (Lauren Brune/U.S. Marine Corps)
A boy portrays an American Forces Network reporter during the 42nd annual Friendship Day at Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni, Japan, Saturday, May 5, 2018.
A boy portrays an American Forces Network reporter during the 42nd annual Friendship Day at Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni, Japan, Saturday, May 5, 2018. (James Bolinger/Stars and Stripes)
Navy pilots from Carrier Air Wing 5 pose with a boy in front of an EA-18G Growler at Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni, Japan, Saturday, May 5, 2018.
Navy pilots from Carrier Air Wing 5 pose with a boy in front of an EA-18G Growler at Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni, Japan, Saturday, May 5, 2018. (James Bolinger/Stars and Stripes)
Navy pilots pose atop an F/A 18E Super Hornet during the 42nd annual Friendship Day at Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni, Japan, Saturday, May 5, 2018.
Navy pilots pose atop an F/A 18E Super Hornet during the 42nd annual Friendship Day at Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni, Japan, Saturday, May 5, 2018. (James Bolinger/Stars and Stripes)
A man photographs an F-35B Lightning II on display during the 42nd annual Friendship Day at Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni, Japan, Saturday, May 5, 2018.
A man photographs an F-35B Lightning II on display during the 42nd annual Friendship Day at Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni, Japan, Saturday, May 5, 2018. (Lauren Brune/U.S. Marine Corps)

MARINE CORPS AIR STATION IWAKUNI, Japan — America’s most-advanced stealth fighter wowed a record 215,000 people Saturday at the base’s 42nd annual Friendship Day.

In its first aerial demonstration in Asia, the F-35B Lightning II showed off its ability to hover and land vertically.

Friendship Day also featured aerial acrobatics from American and Japanese aviators, as well as demonstrations from the Marine Corps, Air Force, Army and — for the fourth year in a row — the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force.

MCAS Iwakuni is home to Marine Air Group 12, Navy Carrier Air Wing 5 and JMSDF Air Wing 31. In a statement, Col. Richard Fuerst, the base commander, called that “a unique combination of forces not only in Japan, but anywhere in the world.”

Tomoko Miyabe, attending Friendship Day for the third time, was impressed by the F-35B and said she enjoyed an MV-22 Osprey aerial demonstration and the Army’s Golden Knights parachute team.

In a breath-taking moment for many in the crowd, a Golden Knights parachutist intentionally sabotaged his parachute, causing it to fail. He was sent into a free fall, but pulled the reserve chute just in time.

One of the most popular things for guests to do was take pictures with uniformed servicemembers on hand at the static displays, which included aircraft from Iwakuni’s squadrons, as well as heavy equipment and Humvees.

“The best part of today is watching the Japanese people get excited about what we do every day,” said Lance Cpl. Abrie Balkwill, a motor transport operator with Marine Wing Support Squadron 171.

The day concluded with a Marine Air Ground Task Force demonstration that simulated the insertion of infantry Marines in combat, combined with simulated close-air support from the F-35B and simulated aerial refueling.

Fuerst said “the very important day” is the base’s way of thanking Japanese citizens for their support of the U.S. and Japanese forces stationed there.

“Friendship Day is just one of the ways we show our appreciation to the citizens of Japan and to also provide more transparency into the kind of operations we conduct here on MCAS Iwakuni,” he said in the statement.

bolinger.james@stripes.com

Twitter: @bolingerj2004

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