U.S. Marines’ F-35B Lightning II aircraft arrived at Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni on January 18 as the first F-35B squadron on an operational overseas deployment.
With this deployment, the Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 121 begins a permanent change of station to MCAS Iwakuni from MCAS Yuma, Arizona, and now belongs to Marine Aircraft Group 12, 1st Marine Aircraft Wing, III Marine Expeditionary Force.
“There’s definitely been a lot of challenges . . . moving our aircraft here, the logistics and we have a lot of people to move,” said U.S. Marine Corps Gunnery Sgt. Vincent Koscienlniak, an avionics technician with VMFA-121. “One of our biggest issues was the physical movement and preparing everything to come here. There has been a lot of cooperation within the unit and most of the Marines here are very good at what they do. They are hand-selected, and it has shown the last few months.”
The F-35B Lightning II is a fifth-generation fighter, which is the world’s first operational supersonic short takeoff and vertical landing (STOVL) aircraft.
“The F-35B represents the future of Marine Corps tactical aviation, and bringing it to Japan makes MCAS Iwakuni the second only operational F-35B base,” said U.S. Marine Corps Maj. Jimmy Braudt, a quality assurance officer and pilot with VMFA-121. “One of its capabilities is a powerful sensor suite that fuses together several different sources and provides superior situational awareness to the pilot. It will be the first short takeoff and vertical landing aircraft permanently based in this theater, and it is capable of countering modern threat systems beyond what legacy aircraft were designed to handle.”