A group of 10 F-35 fighters left the United States on Monday for deployment at the U.S. Marine Corps’ Iwakuni base in western Japan, the U.S. military said Tuesday.
The transfer is part of the planned deployment of 16 of the cutting-edge fighters at the base, reflecting Washington’s strategic rebalance to Asia, the U.S. military said, as China builds up its military presence in the Pacific.
The stealth fighters, which left Marine Corps Air Station in Arizona, are scheduled to arrive at the Iwakuni base in a few days via a base in Alaska. The remaining six fighters are expected to arrive at the Iwakuni base in the second half of this year.
The deployment represents the first overseas stationing of the stealth aircraft. The F-35 fighters, capable of short takeoffs and vertical landings, are successors to the F/A-18 Hornet and AV-8 Harrier jets currently deployed at the Iwakuni base.
F-35s are equipped with high-performance radar that can detect ballistic missiles and are capable of escaping radar detection.
The fighters are expected to be operated at the U.S. Navy’s amphibious assault ship to be deployed at its Sasebo base in Nagasaki Prefecture as early as this autumn.