Tag Archives: Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni

U.S. Marine Corps have just sent their F-35B stealth jets to Japan in first overseas deployment

Iwakuni becomes the first airbase outside the U.S. to host a permanent deployment of US military F-35 stealth jets.

On Jan. 9, 2017, Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 121 (VMFA-121), an F-35B squadron with 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing, departed MCAS (Marine Corps Air Station) Yuma, Arizona, for relocation to MCAS Iwakuni, Japan, in what is the first deployment of the U.S. Joint Strike Fighter outside of CONUS (Continental US).

Formerly a 3rd MAW F/A-18 Hornet squadron, the VMFA-121 “Green Knights” was re-designated as the Corps’ first operational F-35 squadron on Nov. 20, 2012. About three years later, on Jul. 31, 2015, IOC (Initial Operational Capability) was declared and in December 2015, the Squadron flew its F-35Bs in support of Exercise Steel Knight, “a combined-arms live-fire exercise which integrates capabilities of air and ground combat elements to complete a wide range of military operations in an austere environment to prepare the 1st Marine Division for deployment as the ground combat element of a Marine Air-Ground Task Force.”

The F-35B performed exceedingly well during the exercise, according to the USMC.

In October 2016, a contingent of 12 F-35Bs took part in Developmental Test III aboard USS Amerca followed by the Lightning Carrier “Proof of Concept” demonstration on the carrier on Nov. 19, 2016.

During the POC, the aircraft proved it can operate at-sea, employing a wide array of weapons loadouts with the newest software variant, so much so, some of the most experienced F-35B voiced their satisfaction for the way the aircraft is performing: “the platform is performing exceptionally,” they said.

The first two F-35B deployments aboard U.S. Navy amphibious carriers will take place in 2018.

NORTH PACIFIC OCEAN – An F-35B from Marine Fighter Attack Squadron (VMFA) 121, 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing, refuels in flight while transiting the Pacific from Marine Corps Air Station Yuma, Ariz., to Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska, Jan. 9, 2017, with its final destination of Iwakuni, Japan. VMFA-121 is the first operational F-35B squadron assigned to the Fleet Marine Force, with its relocation to 1st Marine Aircraft Wing at Iwakuni. The F-35B was developed to replace the Marine Corps’ F/A-18 Hornet, AV-8B Harrier and EA- 6B Prowler. The Short Take-off Vertical Landing (STOVL) aircraft is a true force multiplier. The unique combination of stealth, cutting-edge radar and sensor technology, and electronic warfare systems bring all of the access and lethality capabilities of a fifth-generation fighter, a modern bomber, and an adverse-weather, all-threat environment air support platform.

How low can you go with an F/A-18 Hornet?

Aircrew from VMFA(AW)-242, Marine All-Weather Fighter Attack Squadron 242, Marine Aircraft Group 12, 1st Marine Aircraft Wing, are currently deployed to Royal Australian Air Force Base Tindal, Australia, for Exercise Southern Frontier which began Aug. 5, 2013.

The U.S. Marine Corps has been focusing on LAT (low altitude tactic) in the large airspace of Australia’s Northern Territory where they are free to conduct low altitude training that is impossible to perform while they are at their Japanese homebase at Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni.

“In Japan we are forced to fly and adhere to host country rules, which inhibits us from going below 500 feet,” said Maj. Frank Savarese, the pilot training officer for VMFA(AW)-242. “We have a wonderful opportunity to come down to Australia and take advantage of all of these ranges that Australia has to offer to us, which allows us the opportunity to fly low.”

As already mentioned before, while discussing insane low level videos of F/A-18s and other aircraft types, the fact that most recent scenarios, in which the combat planes could quietly operate at medium or high altitude with stand off weapons, because of the lack of anti-aircraft threats, doesn’t imply there’s no longer need to to train for flying at low level.

To be able to fly at less than 2,000 feet can be useful during stateside training too, when weather conditions are such to require a low level leg to keep visual contact with the ground and VMC (Visual Meteorological Conditions).

Aircraft involved in special operations, reconnaissance, Search And Rescue, troops or humanitarian airdrops in trouble spots around the world may have to fly at low altitudes.

Even a stealth plane (or helicopter), spotted visually by an opponent, could be required to escape at tree top height to survive an engagement by enemy fighter planes or an IR guided missile.

This image gives a hint of what flying at very low level looks like from the cockpit of a Hornet.

Image credit: U.S. Marine Corps


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First MV-22 Osprey tilt rotor aircraft arrive in Japan

The top picture is particularly interesting as it shows a still “packaged” MV-22 Osprey belonging to the Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 265 as it is unloaded from the cargo ship Green Ridge on arrival at the Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni harbor on Jul. 23, 2012.

This marks the first MV-22 Osprey aircraft deployment to Japan, a move that raised some concerns following the recent incidents involving the tilt-rotor aircraft.

The Osprey will replace the Marine Corps’ CH-46 helicopters.