F-35B on Js Izumo
A Marine Corps F-35B aboard the JS Izumo. Marine Corps photo

U.S. Marines landed two F-35B Lighting II stealth jets on a Japanese naval ship earlier this month in a show of allied democracies’ partnership in defending sea lanes in the Pacific Ocean

The aircraft from Fighter Attack Squadron 242 successfully conducted the first ever landing aboard the JS Izumo following modifications to allow short take-off and vertical landing aboard the helicopter carrier.

The demonstration shows that Marines could operate from the ships of allied democratic nations in the event of a crisis with communist China.

And it gives Japan new capability some 75 years after that nation last operated an aircraft carrier.

“This trial has proved that the JS Izumo has the capability to support takeoffs and landings of STOVL aircraft at sea, which will allow us to provide an additional option for air defense in the Pacific Ocean in the near future,” said Rear Adm. Shukaku Komuta of the Japan Self Defense Force.

Japan is one of 14 nations worldwide that participate in the Joint Strike Fighter program and announced in August 2019 that they would purchase 42 aircraft from the United States.

“We still have work to do until the day the JSDF can regularly employ STOVL aircraft at sea, but I am confident that the strong partnership and mutual trust between our two counties will result in its realization,” said Komuta.

The F-35B features an internal fan to support short takeoffs and vertical landings from smaller ships such as the Navy’s amphibious assault vessels. The F-35A version is designed for the Air Force, and the F-35C with longer wings and more fuel is for Navy aircraft carriers.

“We have the utmost confidence in the Joint Strike Fighter and are eager for our Japanese allies to have the same capabilities in their hands, which ultimately contributes to our shared goal of maintaining a free and open Indo-Pacific,” said Maj. Gen. Brian W. Cavanaugh, 1st Marine Aircraft Wing Commanding General.

Earlier this month Marines operated F-35Bs from the United Kingdom’s new carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth during an exercise in the Pacific.

Chris Jennewein is Editor & Publisher of Times of San Diego.