A pair of U.S. Air Force F-35A fighter jets flew to an air base in Japan's southern prefecture of Okinawa on Monday, marking the first deployment of the stealth aircraft in the Asia-Pacific region overseen by the U.S. Pacific Command.
The two aircraft, the arrival of which was confirmed by the Okinawa prefectural government, are apparently part of a dozen F-35As that the U.S. Pacific Command said on Oct. 23 it will deploy to Kadena Air Base in Okinawa for a six-month rotation.
The arrival of the aircraft, in what could be the latest show of force toward North Korea, came just ahead of U.S. President Donald Trump's planned trip to Japan early next month. Tensions are running high following the North's test-firing of ballistic missiles, some of which have flown over Japan.
"The F-35A gives the joint warfighter unprecedented global precision attack capability against current and emerging threats," Gen. Terrence O'Shaughnessy, U.S. Pacific Air Forces commander, was quoted as saying in a statement issued on Oct. 23.
Approximately 300 personnel from Utah's 34th Fighter Squadron are also expected to arrive at the Kadena base.
F-35s are equipped with high-performance radar that can detect ballistic missiles and are capable of evading radar detection.
The U.S. Marines variant of the F-35, known as F-35Bs, which are capable of short takeoffs and vertical landings, have been stationed at Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni in Yamaguchi Prefecture, western Japan, since January.