Home Asia Pacific US Marines now have two operational F-35B squadrons in Japan

US Marines now have two operational F-35B squadrons in Japan

F-35B in Japan
USMC F-35Bs with Marine Fighter Attack Squadron (VMFA) 242 arrive at Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni, Japan, May 17, 2022. Photo: US Marine Corps

The US Marine Fighter Attack Squadron (VMFA) 242 has become the second operational F-35B squadron based in Japan, achieving full operational capability (FOC) on May 17, 2022.

A significant part of this milestone is the establishment of 32 F-35B aircraft permanently forward-based as part of Marine Aircraft Group (MAG) 12, ready to support a free and open Indo-Pacific. This transition occurred on schedule per the annual Marine Corps aviation plan.

The F-35 Lightning II aircraft represents the future of Marine Corps tactical aviation and will eventually replace the AV-8B Harrier, the F/A-18 Hornet, and the EA-6B Prowler in all units across the Marine Corps.

On October 16, 2020, VMFA-242, known as Bats, was re-designated as an F-35B squadron and on September 9, 2021, the squadron attained initial operational capability (IOC).

“The FOC milestone is the culmination of well over two years of planning and execution, all while being forward deployed and in the face of a global pandemic. In my 20 plus years of service, I have never seen a unit come together in a way that our Marines and Sailors have while overcoming many challenges,” said Lt. Col. Michael D. Wyrsch, the commanding officer of VMFA-242.

“I am incredibly proud to say that I was a member of this team and I look forward to seeing where the Bats’ lasting culture of excellence will take them.”

MAG-12 received the first forward-based F-35B squadron in January 2017, when VMFA-121 relocated to Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni, Japan.

With the addition of VMFA-242, MAG-12 is now the only forward-based unit in the Indo-Pacific with two permanently based F-35B squadrons.

“VMFA-242 has executed a masterful training plan and successfully accomplished the required elements necessary to declare FOC. This declaration provides added capability and capacity, enhances our posture, and ensures that we are able to effectively respond to any tasking“, said Major General Brian W. Cavanaugh, the commanding general of 1st Marine Aircraft Wing.

The F-35B is a fifth-generation stealth fighter designed to operate from short expeditionary airfields and amphibious assault ships. In addition to its short takeoff and vertical landing (STOVL) capability, the F-35B provides advanced technology and incorporates the mission capabilities of the current USMC platforms – the AV-8B and F/A-18 – within a single airframe.