Iwakuni-based U.S. Marine F-35B jets will conduct flying operations aboard the Japanese Navy’s JS Izumo helicopter carrier that is being converted to operate these stealth jets, from 3-7 October.
This information was confirmed by Japan’s Ministry of Defense on September 30 in a statement that said that the F-35Bs, which are capable of Short Take Off and Vertical Landings (STOVL), will conduct landing and take-off tests on the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force (JMSDF)’s JS Izumo.
Izumo is Japan’s first warship capable of operating fixed-wing airplanes since WW2. The country has up to 42 F-35Bs on order and is conducting refits on Izumo and Kaga. The former completed the first of a two-stage modification that involved adding heat resistant coating to the flight deck and flight line markings for F-35 operations. The next stage of the conversion will include changes to the ship’s internal spaces to accommodate F-35B operations besides rebuilding the front of the flight deck from a trapezoidal to a rectangular shape. These changes are expected to create an increase in aviation fuel capacity onboard and provision for armored magazines to store air-launched weapons. The modifications are scheduled for completion in 2026.
Japan already has eight F-35B STOVL jets on contract for delivery beginning in 2024, with the latest Japanese defense budget allocating funding for a further four aircraft in the 2022 fiscal year.
The release did not say how many U.S. F-35Bs will be embarked for the trials. The Marines have two F-35B squadrons operating from Iwakuni, with the “Bats” of Marine Corps Fighter Attack Squadron (VMFA) 242 declaring initial operating capability (IOC) on September 9. The other squadron – the “Green Knights” of VMFA-121 – reached IOC in July 2015, before deploying to Japan in January 2017.