USMC F-35Bs To Operate Off Japanese Helicopter Destroyers By November

Commandant of the United States Marine Corps, General David Berger, has stated that Marine Corps F-35Bs will be embarked on an Izumo-class helicopter destroyer of the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force by November.

During a Center for Strategic and International Studies virtual event on Wednesday, he said that “we’re not going to go on deployment but we’re actually going to fly U.S. Marine Corps F-35s off of a Japanese ship”. The embarkation of the Marine Corps F-35Bs will take place “next month or November”.

CSIS recording of the event. The relevant segment starts at 20:33.

The deployment will follow the current deployment of the Wake Island Avengers of VMFA-211 on the HMS Queen Elizabeth, with the Marine squadron operating together with the Dambusters of the Royal Air Force’s 617 Squadron on the UK Carrier Strike Group’s maiden deployment over the past five months. The JMSDF, Royal Navy and United States Navy had previously signed a trilateral cooperation agreement reaffirming their commitment to collaboration during HMS Queen Elizabeth’s WESTLANT 19 operational testing in 2019.

Japanese Defense Minister Nobuo Kishi had said in late July that he planned for Marine Corps F-35Bs to operate off the Izumo by the end of Japan’s fiscal 2021, but did not provide more details at the time other than the use of Marine F-35Bs based at Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni. The Marine operations would come shortly after the completion of the first of two stages of modifications to the Izumoto to support F-35B operations, and would both verify the functionality of the modifications and provide preliminary training for the crew of the Izumo prior to the arrival of the Japan Air Self Defense Force’s first F-35Bs in 2023. The Izumo has had its deck coatings modified to support the additional heat of the F-35B’s engine, as well as receiving new deck markings.

New markings on the Izumo’s deck following its modifications

Earlier in July, the Japanese Ministry of Defense confirmed previous media reports that the JASDF’s Nyutabaru Air Base would be the first JASDF air base to operate F-35Bs. The JASDF currently has 42 F-35Bs on order, with 18 to be delivered by 2023.