F-35As Arrive in Japan


11/21/17: A U.S. Air Force F-35A Lightning II soars over Okinawa, Japan, Nov. 2, 2017, on approach to Kadena Air Base, Japan.

This marks U.S. Pacific Command’s first operational tasking for the F-35As and the first time a U.S. Air Force F-35A unit has deployed as a regularly scheduled Theater Security Package to Japan.



Photo by Senior Airman Omari Bernard 

Pacific Air Forces Public Affairs 

Twelve U.S. Air Force F-35A Lightning IIs and approximately 300 Airmen from the 388th and 419th Fighter Wings, Hill Air Force Base, Utah, arrived here for the aircraft’s first operational deployment to the Indo-Asia-Pacific region Nov. 2.  

This is the first time the F-35s have deployed as part of a planned U.S. Pacific Command Theater Security Package. 

Two of the twelve aircraft, as well as many of the Airmen supporting the deployment, arrived Oct. 30 after participating in the Seoul Aerospace and Defense Exhibition 2017. 

The deployment provides the region with the most advanced fifth-generation fighter, capable of a variety of operations including access to the global commons, active defense and power projection.  

“The F-35A gives the joint warfighter unprecedented global precision attack capability against current and emerging threats while complementing our air superiority fleet,” said Gen. Terrence J. O’Shaughnessy, Pacific Air Forces commander.

“The airframe is ideally suited to meet our command’s obligations, and we look forward to integrating it into our training and operations.


The F-35s deployment offers unique opportunities to integrate various forces into joint, coalition and bilateral training across many different environments. 

The TSP program – which began in 2004 – is designed to routinely showcase the continuous commitment of the United States to stability and security within the Indo-Asia-Pacific region by deploying aircraft, personnel and equipment that bolster existing U.S. forces.

Theater Security Package deployments are conducted on a rotational basis by Air Force fighter or bomber squadrons and can vary depending on mission and the combatant commander’s requirements.

Theater Security Package deployments enhance the strength of alliances without the need to build vast infrastructure.



18th Wing Public Affairs

And in an article by Matthew M. Burke and Ken Kuniyoshi published in Stars and Stripes on October 31, 2017, it was noted:

Air Force officials have lauded the Lightning II for its “unprecedented global precision attack capability against current and emerging threats.”

“With a very complex security environment, including [the situation with] North Korea, [the deployment of F-35A fighters] indicates that the U.S. side is showing a certain extent of commitment to this region,” Japanese Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera told reporters on Friday.

American military aircraft often draw the ire of Okinawa’s anti-base protest movement. Onodera said he has requested that the U.S. military minimize the F-35A’s impact on local residents by adhering to noise-control measures.

“The defense ministry will not only request the U.S. side take maximum consideration for safety but also try to reduce the burden of local residents as much as possible through relocation of trainings,” he said. “Firmly solving the security environment through diplomacy including issues with North Korea will lead to lessening the burden of Okinawa, and I would like to make that effort as a whole with the government.”

A squadron of F-35Bs from Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 121 arrived in January at Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni, Japan, to replace the F/A-18 Hornet, AV-8B Harrier and EA-6B Prowler.

The F-35A lacks the short-takeoff and vertical-landing capabilities of the B variant, but the airframe and its characteristics are common to both models.

Japan’s Defense Ministry included a $797 million request for six F-35As in this year’s budget.