The F-35 Lightning II joint strike fighter aircraft takes center stage this week during Pacific Air Forces’ inaugural F-35 Symposium.
The two-day conference, which starts Tuesday, marks the largest gathering of the region’s F-35 experts, including senior officers and warfighters from Japan, Australia and South Korea as well as the U.S. Navy, U.S. Marine Corps and U.S. Air Force, PACAF officials said.
Japan, Australia and South Korea are among the 11 international partners in the F-35 program and represent the future of fifth-generation aviation in the Indo-Asia-Pacific region, officials said. The symposium will feature a series of open discussions and briefings with the objective of enhancing F-35 operations in the Pacific, sharing fifth-generation lessons learned and building a foundation for future F-35 bilateral and multilateral engagements, they noted, and topics will include bed down, integration, logistics, sustainment and combat operations.
“This symposium marks an exciting new chapter in Pacific combat capability,” said Air Force Brig. Gen. Craig Wills, PACAF’s strategy, plans and programs director. “Together, our joint and international partners have introduced the most capable combat aircraft in the world to the Pacific.”
Enhancing Interoperability, Cooperation
The F-35 combines advanced stealth with speed, agility and the capability to rapidly fuse information regionally across multiple domains. The Lightning II is the backbone for future combat operations, PACAF officials said, adding that this symposium provides an ideal venue to enhance interoperability and cooperation among the nations in the F-35 community.
U.S. F-35s have reached initial operational capability, with Marines and airmen both flying operational and combat-ready aircraft. In addition to the F-35A’s with the 34th Fighter Squadron at Hill Air Force Base, Utah, 10 F-35B’s from the Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 121, 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing out of Marine Corps Air Station, Yuma, Arizona, are deployed to Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni, Japan, with six more scheduled to arrive later this year.
Japan started its pilot training program in late 2016, South Korea is scheduled to receive its first aircraft in 2018, and Australia has been training pilots in two Royal Australian Air Force F-35s in Arizona since late 2014.
“Together with our Pacific allies and partners, we’re sending a clear message to our neighbors and friends in the region,” Wills said. “We will continue to invest in the combat capability required to assure our ability to defend freedom and uphold the rules-based international order.”
The Australian F-35 made its first appearance in Australia at the 2017 Australian International Airshow. The aircraft stopped here on its way, symbolically emphasizing the importance of the global partnerships and opportunities the F-35 will offer in the coming decades.