F-35B Lightning II jets with Marine Fighter Attack Squadron (VMFA) 121 “Green Knights”, land at Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni, Japan. The F-35B brings strategic agility and operational flexibility with a mission radius greater than that of the F/A-18 Hornet as well as the AV-8B Harrier II in support of the U.S. – Japan alliance.
“It’s been about two years of preparations to move the squadron over to Japan,” said Maj. Michael O’Brien, the operations officer for VMFA-121. “During this phase of the move, we have about 70 Marines from the squadron working to make things run smoothly.” The F-35B Lightning II fighter jets began their journey from MCAS Yuma to transit the Pacific Northwest with a stop at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska. “It’s the first time that any fifth generation fighter unit has moved and been permanently based overseas, specifically in Japan,” said O’Brien. “As Marines, we’re all about being forward based and having a forward presence, and there’s really nothing better than being out there on the leading edges in Asia, in Japan, with our allies.”
Marine Fighting Squadron 121 (VMF-121) was activated on June 24, 1941. The Green Knights began combat operations flying the F4F Wildcat and later the F4U Corsair as charter members of the Cactus Air Force and throughout the Battle of Guadalcanal.
September 2012, LtCol. Jeff Scott took command of the Green Knights marking the end of the F/A-18D Hornet’s tenure and ushering in the fifth-generation stealth fighter era and becoming the first operational F-35B squadron in the Marine Corps Operating Forces as well as the first operational F-35 squadron in any service. Green Knights Lightning II jets arrived at MCAS Iwakuni, Japan yesterday as the first forward deployed permanent F-35B squadron.
(U.S. Marine Corps raw video by Cpl. Waiyan Tin / Edit: Ric Peterson)
In 2015, the commandant of the Marine Corps said, “The type of training we will be conducting will be very similar to that of the F-18 you already see in Iwakuni,” said Lt. Col. James Bardo, the commanding officer of Green Knights. “The opportunity to be in Japan, and as one of the first units to be able to train jointly with our partner services there, is a great honor.”
I’ve again been invited to be the announcer for Friendship Day Iwakuni May 5th, 2017 and look forward to seeing the new jets at one of Japan’s largest air shows.
On Sept. 23, 2016, Japanese and U.S. government officials joined Lockheed Martin to celebrate the roll out of the first JASDF F-35A Lightning II, marking a major milestone in Japan’s enhanced national self defense and strengthening the future of the U.S-Japan security alliance. 42 of the conventional take-off and landing aircraft are to be produced for the Japan Air Self-Defence Force. The first four of these are to be built at Lockheed’s Fort Worth site in Texas, with the remainder to roll off a Mitsubishi Heavy Industries-run final assembly and check-out line in Nagoya. Japan’s first deliver was Lockheed Martin’s 200th example of its F-35.