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Marine Corps F-35Bs train with Japanese F-35A fighters for first time

The first operational Japan Air Self-Defense Force F-35A is seen soon after its arrival at Misawa Air Base, Japan, Jan. 25, 2018. (BENJAMIN STRATTON/U.S. AIR FORCE)

Eight Marine Corps F-35B Lighting II stealth fighters are training alongside Japanese F-35As for the first time in northern Japan.

The Aviation Training Relocation, which kicked off Thursday and runs through May 22 at Misawa Air Base, also features four Misawa-based F-2 fighters, four Japan Air Self-Defense Force F-15s from Chitose Air Base and one AWAC from the Airborne Warning and Control Group at Hamamatsu Air Base, local media reported.

This year marks the first time the MCAS Iwakuni-based fifth-generation F-35B has been involved in the annual training, which has been taking place since 1997.

The aircraft will conduct combat drills involving air-to-ground bombing, the reports said. They will also practice shooting and bombing a ground target at the Misawa Air-to-Ground Firing Practice Range.

“Misawa Aircraft Training Relocation provides our Marines and Sailors an excellent opportunity to train with our U.S. Air Force counterparts and Japanese allies in the spirit of mutual security cooperation, while at the same time, allowing us to further hone our skills across a spectrum of F-35 mission sets,” Col. Mark Palmer, Marine Aircraft Group 12 commander, said in a statement.

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U.S. and Japanese airmen welcomed the first operational JASDF F-35A to Misawa earlier this year. It was the first of 10 that would make up Japan’s inaugural fifth-generation fighter squadron.

The F-35A takes off and lands like a traditional fighter jet but has the same airframe and other characteristics of the Marines’ short-takeoff, vertical-landing capable B variant.

Japan plans to buy 42 F-35As to replace its fleet of 60-year-old F-4 Phantom II fighters.

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© 2018 the Stars and Stripes

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