- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 10, 2017

A squadron of the Pentagon’s 5th Generation fighter, the F-35B Joint Strike Fighter, is headed for Japan.

Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 121 deployed Monday from Marine Corps Air Station Yuma, Arizona, for MCAS Iwakuni, Japan. The impending arrival of the aircraft, which are part of a $400 billion project, thrilled officials at 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing.

“The Short Take-off Vertical Landing (STOVL) aircraft is a true force multiplier,” Capt. Kurt Stahl, a spokesman for 3rd MAW, said in a statement released Tuesday, Military Times reported. “The unique combination of stealth, cutting-edge radar and sensor technology, and electronic warfare systems bring all of the access and lethality capabilities of a fifth-generation fighter, a modern bomber, and an adverse-weather, all-threat environment air support platform.”

The Pentagon’s longterm plan is to have 2,443 F-35s ready to defend the skies at a moment’s notice, but unexpected technical hurdles and ballooning costs have tested the patience of politicians — including President-elect Donald Trump.

“Based on the tremendous cost and cost overruns of the Lockheed Martin F-35, I have asked Boeing to price-out a comparable F-18 Super Hornet!” Mr. Trump tweeted Dec. 22.

Political wrangling aside, over 200 pilots and 2,000 maintainers for the F-35 have been trained since 2010. Those pilots have logged more than 40,000 flight hours and completed over 75 percent of the project’s Test Program milestones.

SEE ALSO: Gen. Hawk Carlisle itching to send F-35s into ISIS fight: ‘We’ve got to … get moving’

Military Times noted that Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 121’s presence in Japan paves the way for future deployments and operations in the Middle East.

• Douglas Ernst can be reached at dernst@washingtontimes.com.

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