New-to-Japan stealth fighters make first flights around Okinawa

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Two F-35B Lightning II stealth fighters prepare to land at Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni, Japan, Jan. 18, 2017.  JOSEPH ABREGO/U.S. MARINE CORPS PHOTO
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Two F-35B Lightning II stealth fighters prepare to land at Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni, Japan, Jan. 18, 2017. JOSEPH ABREGO/U.S. MARINE CORPS PHOTO

New-to-Japan stealth fighters make first flights around Okinawa

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Stars and Stripes | .
published: February 08, 2017

CAMP FOSTER, Okinawa — A squadron of F-35B Lightning II jets is now training in Okinawa, its first announced action around the southern island since arriving in Japan last month for its first overseas deployment.

The new stealth fighters from Marine Aircraft Group 12, 1st Marine Aircraft Wing out of Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni began flying near Okinawa this week, a Marine Corps statement said.

Officials declined to provide further information on flight paths and scheduling, as is standard procedure.

The squadron will be operating out of Okinawa’s Marine Corps Air Station Futenma and Kadena Air Base on a “transient basis,” the statement said.

“The Marine Corps is dedicated to supporting the U.S.-Japan alliance with the most advanced aircraft platforms in our inventory,” the statement said of the short-takeoff, vertical-landing aircraft meant to replace the F/A-18 Hornet, AV-8B Harrier and EA-6B Prowler.

The new fighter’s advances have been touted by military pilots. However, the plane was plagued by issues with ejector seats and computer systems in its development, which led to delays and cost overruns. President Donald Trump has indicated he may abandon the program altogether.

The fighters make their way to Japan amid ongoing tensions along its southern border. The new White House administration has recently traded barbs with Beijing about the United States’ defense of Japan’s southwestern islands, the Senkakus, which are also claimed by China.

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