JOINT BASE PEARL HARBOR-HICKAM, Hawaii — The F-35 Lightning II will take center stage during the Pacific Air Forces’ inaugural F-35 Symposium next week. The two-day conference will mark the largest gathering of F-35 experts to include senior officers and warfighters from Japan, Australia, South Korea as well as the U.S. Navy, Marine Corps and Air Force.
Japan, Australia and South Korea are among the 11 countries in the F-35 program and represent the future of fifth-generation aviation in the Indo-Asia-Pacific region. International attendees will participate in 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. Topics will include bed down, integration, logistics, sustainment and combat operations.
“This symposium marks an exciting new chapter in Pacific combat capability. Together, our joint and international partners have introduced the most capable combat aircraft in the world to the Pacific,” said Brig. Gen. Craig Wills, PACAF’s strategy, plans and programs director.
The F-35 is a next-generation, multi-role fighter that 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. This symposium will provide an ideal venue to enhance interoperability and cooperation amongst 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-35As with the 34th Fighter Squadron at Hill Air Force Base, Utah, 10 F-35Bs 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. We will continue to invest in the combat capability required to assure our ability to defend freedom and uphold the rules-based international order,” Wills said.
The Australian F-35 made its first appearance in Australia at the 2017 Australian International Airshow and Aerospace and Defense Exposition at Avalon Airport, Victoria, Australia. While travelling to Victoria, the aircraft stopped at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, symbolically emphasizing the importance of the global partnerships and opportunities the F-35 will offer in the coming decades.