World News

Marine Corps F-35Bs are first aircraft to launch from Japanese warship since WWII

By Sommer Brokaw   |   Oct. 5, 2021 at 3:07 PM
A U.S. sailor directs a Marine Corps F-35B Lightning II aircraft with Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 242 to land Sunday on the Japanese Ship Izumo off the coast of Japan. Photo by Lance Corporal Tyler Harmon/U.S. Marine Corps

Oct. 5 (UPI) -- The Marine Corps has launched two F-35B fighter jets from the Japanese warship Izumo, the first time since World War II that any aircraft has taken off from a Japanese vessel.

The fighter jets landed on the Japanese Ship Izumo on Sunday as part of a trial test of the capability of the warship to support the fighter jets in collaboration with the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force.

The test was conducted after a series of modifications to enable short take-off and vertical landing, or STOVL, operations, a specialty of the "B" variant of the F-35.

"This trial has proved that the JS Izumo has the capability to support takeoffs and landings of STOVL aircraft at sea, which will allow us to provide an additional option for air defense in the Pacific Ocean in the near future," JMSDF Rear Admiral Shukaku Komuta, commander of Escort Flotilla One, said in a statement.

The trial also marked the first time since World War II Japan has had a warship from which fixed-wing aircraft can operate, The Japan Times reported.

Weapons exceeding "the minimum required force" for self-defense have been interpreted as being banned under Japan's pacifist constitution, but Japanese officials have said the Izumo falls within the constitutional scope, according to Japan's English-language daily newspaper.

A senior ministry official told The Japan Times in 2019 that China's growing military presence in the Western Pacific was a main reason for the upgrade of the warship to an aircraft carrier.

The last time Japan operated an aircraft carrier was over 75 years ago.

Japan announced in August 2019 it would purchase 42 F-35B aircraft from the United States.

"We still have work to do until the day the JSDF can regularly employ STOVL aircraft at sea, but I am confident that the strong partnership and mutual trust between our two countries will result in its realization," Komuta said in a statement.