Marine Corps Trims Hornet Squadrons in Japan with F-35 Arrival
The U.S. Marine Corps has adjusted the number of F/A-18 Hornet squadrons on rotating deployments to Japan with the arrival of the F-35B Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter to that country, according to the Marine Corps deputy commandant for aviation.
Speaking to media at the Avalon Airshow in Geelong, Victoria, Australia, Lt. Gen. Jon Davis confirmed that the Marines will now have one F/A-18 squadron at Marine Combat Air Station Iwakuni on rotations under the Unit Deployment Program (UDP), down from the previous two.
The UDP sees the rotational deployment of Marine air and ground units to the Western Pacific (WESTPAC) for periods of approximately six months. While on rotation the Marines regularly take part in engagement with regional allies, with the Hornets taking part in exercises like Balikatan in the Philippines, Commando Sling in Singapore, and Cobra Gold in Thailand.
The Hornet UDP squadron will be part of Marine Air Group 12, 1st Marine Aircraft Wing for the duration of their rotational deployment, serving alongside Marine Fighter Attack Squadron (VMFA) 121, which is now based at Iwakuni with ten F-35Bs since January, and VMFA-242 which operates the two-seat F/A-18D Hornet.
Another UDP AV-8B Harrier squadron operates out of Kadena Air Base in nearby Okinawa, and is assigned to the Okinawa-based 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit on board the Navy’s sole forward deployed Landing Helicopter Dock during WESTPAC cruises.