Oct. 24 (UPI) — The U.S. Air Force is deploying a dozen F-35A Lightning II aircraft to Japan next month, marking U.S. Pacific Command’s first operational tasking for the aircraft.
The Air Force said in a release Tuesday the planes, with 300 crew members, are scheduled to arrive at Kadena Air Base early next month for a six-month term.
The planes and personnel are from the 34th Fighter Squadron at Hill Air Force Base in Utah.
“The F-35A gives the joint warfighter unprecedented global precision attack capability against current and emerging threats while complementing our air superiority fleet,” Gen. Terrence J. O’Shaughnessy, Pacific Air Forces commander, said in a statement. “The airframe is ideally suited to meet our command’s obligations, and we look forward to integrating it into our training and operations.”
The Air Force said it’s deploying the jets under U.S. Pacific Command’s theater security package program, adding that the deployment will “demonstrate the continuing U.S. commitment to stability and security in the region.”
The deployment comes amid tensions between North Korea and the United States and its Pacific allies over North Korea’s nuclear program and ballistic missile tests. The U.S. Navy currently has two aircraft carrier groups in the region.
The decision announced this week marks the first in-theater deployment for the F-35A aircraft, but F-35Bs of the Marine Corps have been stationed at Iwakuni, Japan, since January.