16 F-35 fighters to be deployed at Iwakuni

Will replace F/A-18 Hornets

by Toru Sakai, Staff Writer

The United States government has announced plans to deploy 16 state-of-the-art F-35 stealth fighter jets at the U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni (in Iwakuni, Yamaguchi Prefecture) in 2017. In a written reply to questions posed by the Chugoku Shimbun, the Marine Corps news service in Okinawa revealed on December 21 that 16 F-35 fighters designed to Marine Corps specifications will replace the F/A-18 Hornet fighters currently deployed at Iwakuni.

Sixteen F-35B aircraft represent one squadron. According to the Marine Corps news service, the AV-8B Harrier vertical/short takeoff and landing ground-attack aircraft and the EA-6B Prowler electronic warfare aircraft, which can jam radar systems, now deployed at Iwakuni will also eventually be replaced by F-35 fighter jets. The deployment is believed to represent the U.S. military’s intention to replace aircraft rather than to increase their numbers.

The F-35B features advanced stealth characteristics that make it difficult to detect with radar as well as the ability to take off and land vertically. According to the environmental report prepared by the U.S. at the time of the deployment at Marine Corps Air Station Futenma in Okinawa of the MV-22 Osprey transport, which also has vertical takeoff and landing capability, there are currently 36 F/A-18 fighter jets, six Harriers and five Prowlers at the air station in Iwakuni.

(Originally published on December 22, 2012)