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US Marines Move First F-35B Squadron to Japan

© REUTERS / US Marine Corps/Lance Cpl. Remington Hall/HandoutF-35B Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter
F-35B Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter - Sputnik International
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The US Marines Corps’ (USMC) first operational F-35 Joint Strike Fighter squadron took to international skies recently, heading for a base in Iwakuni, Japan, approximately 40 km southwest of Hiroshima.

While USMC division VMFA-121 declared the F-35B fleet operational in 2015, despite years of problems, cost overruns, and persistent fires, the deployment marks the first international relocation of the fifth-generation fighter jets. Through 2016, the US bought 71 F-35Bs, however 10 of the “B” variety jets are part of a squadron stationed in Japan, USMC spokesman Capt. Kurt Stahl told Defense News.

"The short take-off vertical landing aircraft is a true force multiplier," the Corps said. Check it out.

On Wednesday at Trump Tower in New York, the Republican President-elect noted that the F-35 project is "way, way behind schedule and many, many billions of dollars over budget," adding, "I don’t like that."

With the uncertainty induced by Trump’s incoming administration some wonder whether long-time allies Japan and Germany will be asked to provide more for their national security, given the massive costs associated with maintaining the US armed forces.

Air Force One, with President Barack Obama aboard, lands at O'Hare International Airport in Chicago, Thursday, Feb. 19, 2015. - Sputnik International
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But Trump’s charge may be a little one-sided. In December 2016, Japan took the plunge and secured its first issue-plagued F-35. Tokyo still has to foot the rest of a $14-billion bill to bring in 27 more F-35s. Tokyo’s agreement with Lockheed Martin includes future maintenance and repairs.

Trump met with Lockheed Martin CEO at the Palm Beach Mar-a-Lago estate, afterward telling reporters that the US will get F-35 costs down and that "we’re going to do it beautifully." It remains to be seen how reducing the amount of financial resources dedicated to a military jet program can appear as an aesthetically pleasing course of action, but, as with many things Trump says, it simply cannot be ruled out.

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