In a major boost to the American presence in the Pacific amid heightened tensions with China, United States Marine Corps (USMC) announced the official establishment of the second squadron of F-35B aircraft in the region via a press release on Friday.
The F-35 is going to be the mainstay frontline fighter of the Marines, the service said, adding that the aircraft would eventually replace all AV-8B harriers, F-18 Hornets, and the EA-6B Prowler in all units across the service.
“On October 16, Marine Aircraft Group 12 re-designated Marine All-Weather Fighter Attack Squadron 242 to Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 242 as part of the Marine Corps’ ongoing transition process from legacy F/A-18 Hornet aircraft to the newer 5th generation F-35B Lightning II,” declared the press release.
This transition is in accordance with mutual agreements between the U.S. and the Government of Japan and occurred on schedule per the annual Marine Corps aviation plan.
The Marine Aircraft Group-12 (MAG-12) began receiving its first F-35B squadron and established the first squadron back in 2017 when VMFA-121 was relocated to Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni, Japan. With the addition of VMFA-242, MAG-12 is now the only overseas unit with two permanently stationed F-35B squadrons.
“The increased capability of F-35B along with our other 5th generation capabilities in III MEF enable us to support Fleet Marines, Joint and Allied partners on a moment’s notice,” said Brigadier General Chris McPhillips, the commanding general of 1st Marine Aircraft Wing based in Okinawa, Japan.
“F-35B gives us the ability to dominate air and sea space and persist wherever we are without rival. It is an expeditionary platform that literally holds doors open for the Fleet Marine and Joint Force. F-35B basing in Japan is not by accident, it has occurred here more rapidly than in other parts of the world which is a testament to our commitment to Japan and the region.”
The F-35B is the STOVL (short take-off and vertical landing) variant of the F-35 family. Similar in size to the A variant, the B sacrifices about a third of the A variant’s fuel volume to accommodate the lifting system.
“The F-35B is the “next generation” aircraft and represents the future of USMC tactical aviation. In addition to its short takeoff and vertical landing capability, the F-35B provides advanced technology and incorporates the mission capabilities of the current USMC platforms—the AV-8B and F/A-18—within a single airframe. The F-35B also has unique aircraft with new and different capabilities compared to the legacy aircraft it replaces,” the Marine Corps said.