Ten F-35Bs will deploy to Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni, Japan, in January 2017, a Pentagon official confirmed Wednesday. The deployment, reported by the Kyodo news service, will be the first overseas deployment for the F-35B, the first squadron of which was declared operational in August 2015. Iwakuni is host to Marine Corps F/A-18 fighters, which will eventually be replaced by F-35Bs at the base. The deployment is part of a familiarization for both pilots and base ground crews. Further deployments to Iwakuni are expected later next year.
U.S. Air Force F-35s and F-22s regularly deploy deep into the Pacific region from Alaska, Utah, and Hawaii. In the future, though, the head of U.S. Indo-Pacific Command would like to see the Air Force permanently station fifth-generation aircraft west of the international date line—closer to China.