The first F-35 Lightning delivery of 2017 was also the 200th overall delivery for the Joint Strike Fighter program and, highlighting the international flavor of the program, this first jet of 2017 belongs to Japan – but was flown to Luke Air Force Base, Arizona, where pilot training for the F-35A is conducted.
Photo by Lockheed Martin photographer Beth Steel.
This is the second F-35 delivered to the Japan Self-Defence Force–Air.
Known as AX-2, the jet joins Luke’s F-35 fleet of 46 jets to train American, Japanese and other foreign pilots.
Australia’s first two aircraft have also been delivered to Luke AFB.
AX-2 departed Lockheed Martin’s Fort Worth, Texas, production facility on Tuesday and arrived approximately two hours later at Luke Air Force Base.
More than 380 pilots and 3700 maintainers have thus far been trained and the aircraft fleet has logged more than 75,000 flight hours.
Meanwhile: The US Marine Corps’ first operational F-35B Joint Strike Fighter squadron is currently en-route to Japan, where it will be based.
Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 121 departed its former HQ at Marine Corps Air Station Yuma, Arizona, on Monday this week and will eventually be based at Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni, Japan – 40km south-west of Hiroshima.
VMFA-121 received its first F-35B in November 2012, and was instrumental to the Marine Corps’ eventual announcement of initial operational capability in July 2015.
The F-35 operates in eight locations in the USA as well as in Israel, Italy and soon Japan.
It also flew last year at the Royal International Air Tattoo in the UK.
Fingers crossed for Avalon!!!!
Australia has committed to buying 72 F-35As for three operational squadrons at RAAF Base Williamtown and RAAF Base Tindal, plus a training squadron at Williamtown.
A fourth operational squadron will also be considered for RAAF Base Amberley, for a total of 100 aircraft.
The first F-35A will arrive in Australia in 2018 and the first squadron– Number 3 Squadron – will be operational in 2021.
All 72 aircraft are expected to be fully operational by 2023.